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Hack to the future: Concordia’s hackathon is back

Back, whack, and ready to attack–a week of workshops by HackConcordia provides students with new skills.

Concordia’s hacker collective, HackConcordia, hosted various workshops to teach students and the public hacking skills this past week.

Hack Week is a way for students to prepare for the annual ConUHacks V, a hackathon at Concordia, where students come from all over North America to compete in a 24-hour contest. Participants get to create whatever they can imagine––hackathon projects can have any theme as long as it involves code.

“No one ever leaves a hackathon without learning something new,” said Zach Bys, the co-president of HackConcordia and a software engineering student.

Bys has participated in Hackathons for four years, and decided to help organize them because he wanted to give back to the collective. “[Hackathons] have done a lot for me in my career. Most of the skills I have now, that helped me get jobs, I’ve learnt those at different Hackathons,” he said.

ConUHacks has been taking place since 2014, with its first competition having roughly 300 participants. Bys said this year, there are over 750 participants total, with around 40 per cent being Concordia students.

With the increase in participants, Concordia Hackathon has gained over 38 sponsors, such as EB games, Telus, and Shutter Shock. Some sponsors host their own competitions during the hackathon and hand out various prizes.

Bys explained that his favourite creation by students so far was an app that used augmented reality to create live audio captioning, which creates live text when people talk, usually with the intention of helping people with a hearing impairment. Augmented reality is a technology that allows visual objects to interact with reality, such as the popular Pokemon Go app, where digital creatures interact with reality.

Another creation that stood out to Bys was a smart fridge that catalogued all of its contents, and then suggested recipes that could be made with the available food.

At Hackathon, you can let your creativity run wild,” said Bys, who explained that at work or school, it’s unusual for people to have a chance to be imaginative and innovative. “[At Hackathon], you can build anything you want and use technologies that you never had a chance to use at school, like augmented reality.”

Bys stated that with new advances in technology, new programming has become much more approachable for people. Over 10 years ago, it was incredibly difficult to create things with augmented reality, but now it is possible to create complex projects in less than 24 hours, Bys said.

David Molina, a computer engineering student at Concordia, participated in one of the workshops HackConcordia organized. It was hosted by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Concordia, a student branch of the electronics company, IEEE. The workshop focused on learning how to create an arduino, an open-source electronic platform that takes in information––such as a finger on a button or an online message––and uses that information to command actions like turn on a motor, a light, or publish a message. In simple terms, it is a very basic robot.

It was Molina’s first time at a HackConcordia event and, while he specializes in designing and building robots in his program, this was the first time he was able to program one.

“It might seem big, but you just have to start somewhere,” Molina said, explaining that anyone can learn how to hack, and the events that HackConcordia are a great way to dip your toes in. “You just have to start small and take baby steps, and then you’re off to building robots.”

Concordia’s Hackathon is on Jan. 25 and the results will be displayed in JMSB’s atrium on Jan. 26.

 

Photo by Cecilia Piga

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Hackers meet up at Concordia

ConUHacks II brought together students from all over North America

ConUHacks, Concordia University’s hackathon, was held this weekend at the John Molson School of Business. More than 400 students from all over North America in the fields of software engineering and computer science came together to create an application or website with their respective teams.

The students began working on their projects Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. and had until the same time on Sunday to finish them. During the closing ceremony at 4 p.m., the six teams who made the finals showcased their projects to the other participants.

The application that won first place was Blindspot, a selfie-taking application for blind or visually impaired people completely controlled by voice commands. Youssef Chahdoura, Nicholas Lee, George Shen and Michel Jing created the app. Chahdoura studies at the University of Ottawa, while the other three study at Waterloo University.

“I came in with the idea that I wanted to help blind people, and then my teammates had the idea to take the perfect picture,” said Jing. When asked what the hardest part of their hackathon was, Jing said that, for some of them, it was their first time coding in Java for Android so it was a challenge. It was Chahdoura’s first hackathon, so he said to win first place was “a really awesome experience.”

A particularly interesting project that came out of the hackathon was  the Go.study application created by Team 70. The application, explained by the team as a mix of Tinder and Facebook, initially invites the user to log their course number and university and they will then be matched with someone from their class to study with. The team said they will eventually expand their application and create a group chat.

Another interesting application was storyflow.me, a website that allows people to bring all their Instagram stories together to create a big story. The user creates a story and then invites friends to add on to it. The website is currently available for Instagram users to try out.

Over the weekend, students were also welcomed to attend different workshops offered by the sponsoring companies, such as Microsoft and Morgan Stanley. Attendees were able to visit a career fair where some company representatives were recruiting students for internships, including Google and Spiria.

ConUHacks will be back next year, but the date of the hackathon has not been decided yet.

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HackConcordia to host its second Hackathon this weekend

ConUHacks II will bring more than 400 students together

Montreal’s prime major league hacking marathon, ConUHacks, is gearing up for its second edition of the 24-hour “hackathon” competition.

Organized by HackConcordia, a group of computer science and software engineering students, the event will bring together more than 400 students from across North America to show off their self-expression and creativity through technology. The hackathon will take place at the John Molson School of Business on Jan. 21, at 6 a.m. and will end Jan. 22, at 7 p.m.

The main goal of the hackathon is to create new web or mobile services over a limited time period – in this case, 24 hours. Hackathon projects, or ‘hacks’ can come in the form of websites, mobile applications and robots.

The free event welcomes students from all programs, whether they are new to the concept or not. The hackathon will be hosting tutorials and inviting mentors to help anyone having trouble with different softwares.

“You’re provided with mentors, various workshops, equipment and free food throughout the event,” said participant Aboud Dalab about the competition. “After the time-limit hits, individuals or teams present their projects.” The winners will be chosen by company mentors.

HackConcordia is one of the multiple hacking groups in North America and is part of the official student hackathon league, the Major League Hacking (MLH). MLH helps finance more than 200 weekend invention competitions, bringing more than 65,000 students together from around the world, according to their website.

This year’s ConUHacks will be open format, meaning students will be able to create their projects on web, mobile, desktop or hardware applications.

To give an idea of the scale of the event, last year Concordia received 1,252 applications, but only took 388 participants from 29 different universities. Most of the participants last year came from the U.S.

Some of the most used applications, such as Facebook Chat and the “like” button were first created at internal company hackathons. Another example of a notable hackathon development is GroupMe, a group messaging application that Skype bought for more than $50 million.

Hackathons are, in a sense, a career fair for students in computer science and software engineering programs according to participant Korhan Akçuran. He believes that, for many students, himself included, hackathons are a great opportunity to think about their future careers as programmers and to meet great contacts. Prizes are also given to winning projects. Last year’s prizes amounted to close to $26,000. HackConcordia will provide coffee and food, but suggests the hackers to bring a change of clothes and toiletries. Registration to participate is still open on ConUHacks’ website.

Meet some of Concordia’s participants!

Name: Korhan Akçura

Program: Second year in his masters of software engineering

“I decided to join this year’s ConUHacks II because I have a competitive personality and I like to solve challenges. I also believe that my creativity will be pushed to its limit with the limited time given. I am participating for self-improvement and to give the best of me to produce a successful software project in a short time. I participated at the Quebec Engineering Games and Quebec Engineering Competition while I was an undergraduate at Concordia. My mission is to apply my programming skills in a competitive environment, to produce an original project with my team. I will enjoy being in an environment with like-minded people where I can learn, share and develop my programming and technical skills. But most of all, I am participating for the fun and the satisfaction that will come after accomplishing the challenging task.”

Name: Aboud Dalab

Program: Second year in BA marketing

“I decided to join the hackathon to learn from all the mentors who will be present. I was introduced to the hackathon world because of my friends in the computer science program and then did my own research to find other hackathons near Montreal. When you’re hacking, you’re building, so we will see as a team what we will decide to create. Generally, hackathons are very messy due to the 24-hour time limit.  I doubt that we will follow a specific form of hacking due to time. Another great part of hackathons is that they are looking for people from all sorts of backgrounds, meaning not only programmers and software engineers. This prepares us for real life because to create a software project, you need all kinds of people from different fields.

Name: Daniel Privorotsky

Program: Second year in BA software engineering

“I decided to join the hackathon for a few different reasons. First off, the fun that comes from creating new things, challenging yourself and placing your knowledge to the test. Additionally, it is a great opportunity to meet people and expand your network. And, of course, it looks pretty good on your CV. My friends told me about the hackathon, which is why I joined. I have participated in one hackathon event before, but this year will be my first time at ConUHacks. I am excited to see the challenges that will be given to create the programs. Since there exist many different kinds of programming languages, interfaces, platforms and so on, having members who specialize in certain fields can be very helpful.”

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