CSULB to Host First Hackathon

beachhacks logoWhat could be better than working around the clock guzzling energy drinks while building new apps? For those who haven’t attended a hackathon, you’re in for a treat—CSULB is holding BeachHacks for 24 hours beginning Saturday, April 2. Registration is now open.

Most big engineering schools hold hackathons, where students compete to show off their technical skills—and endurance. Sponsors donate hardware, food, t-shirts, and giveaways to keep programmers pumped. Midnight snacks, raffles, and special challenges are part of the typical hackathon experience.

Members of the CSULB ACM chapter had been wanting to host a hackathon at CSULB for some time. Plans solidified after several members attended a San Francisco conference for Major League Hacking (MLH), the national league for student hackathons. “I got there and there was Hack Harvard and Hack MIT,” said CSULB ACM President Michael Botsko, who attended the conference on a scholarship.

BeachHacks organizers hope to draw 400 students from CSULB and surrounding schools—and from a variety of majors. “It’s probably one of the primary things that’s great about hackathons,” Botsko said. “You can take any major and incorporate it into a hackathon.”

For participants, hackathons are a chance to test their programming and other technical skills, meet new friends, have fun, and even get noticed by potential employers. Sponsors have a chance to showcase new products, give back to the community, and meet programming rock stars. Mentors have a chance to contribute their knowledge and skills.

“It’s a very symbiotic relationship. It helps—hearing about new things in industry,” said Botsko, an undergraduate computer science student who has attended hackathons at UC Berkeley and UC Irvine. “Sometimes companies sponsor hackthons to better their industry. And you never know who you’re going to meet.”

Hackathons can last as long as three days and attract up to 2,500 people. A daylong event for 400 seemed more workable for CSULB’s first event, Botsko said. Of Southern California CSU campuses, the only one that sponsors a hackathon is Cal Poly Pomona, whose HackPoly is Feb. 6-7.

Some people attend with just the clothes on their backs and stay awake for the entire duration, while others bring sleeping bags to catch some sleep. You’re divided into teams, and work on projects that may or may not work out according to plan.

“One of the core things we wanted to do in setting up this hackathon was bringing this experience to the Cal State Long Beach students,” Botsko said.