To Hack or not to Hack

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On Nov. 4, I attended Technica’s all-female hackathon. All in all, it was a very cool experience. They had a lot of great tutorials lined up, and I geeked out over arduino baords. There was a python challenge and one of my fellow graduate students got third place. Someone else in my group picked a lock. We are an elite bunch.

It was my first hackathon and I didn’t want to “screw it up.” I had read online that one should have a plan for the weekend. So I met with my group and made this project to pull data from weatherstations from the department roof and make some nice visualizations. This was all great except… we couldn’t continuously log data logger without a permanent PC and it’s not like we had extra one laying around. The other problem was it was homecoming weekend so there were football games and festivities that distracted people from the mission. People showed up late, left early, or not at all. So, we got absolutely nothing done related to our “hack.”

12196342_10102674791303659_3296974766887772164_nI was kind of disappointed, but I think all that advice I read on the internet was more geared towards competitive teams. Since it was my first hackathon, I really just enjoyed the classes, games, and learning atmosphere. I got to meet other like minded people and took a selfie with testudo. I tried to convince a drunk undergrad who stumbled into the event to change his evil ways (he walked over to a recruiters booth and was handed a flier on internships, before he was escorted out for trespassing). So, contrary to everything else I read online, I recommend for first-time “hackers,” just sit back and enjoy in an unstructured way. There really was a lot going on and  it was a great weekend to just explore new things.

Lately, I have been in despair after overhearing so many undergrads saying “they hate school” and bragging about skipping class. It’s easy to dismissively say they are “unmotivated students.” I think this culture of perfection and micromanagement is just paying its toll. Standardized testing discourages young people to create and explore. Hopefully, events like this will make the things that students learn in class more real and interesting.

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