Evan Klein, '18, speaks to students at a workshop on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016. The workshop was held in preparation for the Hackathon. (Ashley Strysko/B&W Staff)

CREATE Club to host first-ever Lehigh hackathon

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Imagine creating an app that everyone can use — an app that allows users to better organize their lives or get in touch with friends and family. This will be attempted during the weekend of March 31 to April 1 at LehighHacks, Lehigh’s first hackathon.

A hackathon is not what people usually think — perhaps a group of people breaking into encrypted databases. In reality, it is an event that allows participants to use their creativity and technical knowledge to develop apps and work on projects in a short window of time.

“Hacking is putting something together very, very quickly to make a proof of concept,” said Evan Klein, ’18, the director of technology for CREATE club.

Developers of all skill levels may participate in the 36-hour hackathon to learn new skills and partake in engaging projects. This event is for anyone who enjoys coding or would like to learn to code. Students with no previous coding experience are also encouraged to come and participate.

“Hackathons are one of the best places to learn how to code,” David Morency, ’18, said.

There will be several workshops leading up to the event, which will allow students to learn or improve upon whatever skills they need in order to succeed. LehighHacks will also have workshops at the event to accommodate people who don’t have experience at all.

A workshop was held on Feb. 24 to teach participants basic coding and web development. There will be several more such workshops before the event itself.

“The best way to learn is to do,” Klein said. “We’re trying to cater to those who want to learn, but don’t really (know) how to code.”

Students who do not have time to attend the workshops but would still like to participate may do so. Workshops will be held during the event as well to allow anyone who is interested to be able to participate.

Those who have previously participated in hackathons are expected to come and showcase their skills, especially if they have a project in mind that they haven’t been able to work on. There are three categories to compete in: smart environments, social apps and financial technologies.

Students from various neighboring universities are invited to compete at LehighHacks. Any student enrolled at Lehigh will be guaranteed a spot, while those from surrounding colleges will go through an application process.

“Competing is fun, but at its core, it’s a way to share experiences and ideas,” Morency said.

Tech companies such as IBM and Microsoft will contribute to the event. The companies are giving students access to their technology and showing them how to use it during workshops before and at the event. Other companies sponsoring LehighHacks include AIG, Qualcomm and Wells Fargo.

IBM, for example, is giving students extended access to Watson and their Bluemix platform.

“Watson is the crazy (artificial intelligence) that beat ‘Jeopardy’ champions on ‘Jeopardy,’” Klein said.

It has also been used by doctors and lawyers for advice or strategies on tough cases.

Having numerous corporate sponsors allows for important networking opportunities. When registering, students have to submit a resume, which will be given to the sponsor’s representatives. Participating in LehighHacks may be an avenue into a new interest or career field for participating students. Representatives are looking for talent and will be able to get to know students better during the event.

“We think hackathons are big events that represent that culture,” Morency said. “That could help out a lot of students who seek out that culture and also help create awareness for it and grow it here at Lehigh.”

The CREATE club feels as though Lehigh lacks a feeling of innovative software engineering despite it being an engineering school. It hopes the hackathon will be a big push in creating a hacker culture at the university.

Klein said a friend of his was able to create a startup from an app he developed during a hackathon called Workflow. The app went on to be listed among the top 20 apps in the Apple App Store.

“If you really enjoy your product, and are really passionate about it, you could make a startup,” Klein said.

According to Peter Nguyen, ’18, bigger and better hackathons are to be expected every semester.

“It’s the start of something big,” he said.

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