Hack Around-the-Clock

Columbia Engineering recently hosted the Spring 2013 hackNY Student Hackathon, a 24-hour marathon of collaborative coding and a chance for students to become immersed in New York City’s thriving technology start-up scene.

Student hackers showcased a creative mix of ideas, including laser tanks, a bathroom-finding app that combines a bathroom-location database with Foursquare’s check-in data, and a competitive online Linux system administration tutorial. A duo from New York University and Yale came in first place with Gitdown, a hardware hack to prevent programming while intoxicated. Gitdown is a connection between a breathalyzer sensor and a Git commit hook so that programmers are only allowed to code when they are sober. Hundreds of students from scores of colleges and universities participated in the April 6 to 7 event, with other winning teams representing Columbia, Carnegie Mellon, Penn, and Brown.

Chris Wiggins, associate professor of applied mathematics, cofounded hackNY three years ago and designed the hackathon so that students can get together in one place and enjoy building collaboratively in a short timeframe. The idea, he said, is to help students find out that computation and coding can be collaborative, challenging, and creative.

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