Tech lovers pull all-night codefest for social good, Nov. 15-16, 2014
More than 500 students converged on Duke’s Fitzpatrick Center for an unusual all-nighter this weekend. No term papers, no problem sets. Their mission: to collaborate on software or hardware projects related to social good. The students were participating in “HackDuke,” the third in a series of 24-hour hackathons held at Duke since 2013.
Hacking = Hack + Marathon
To some, “hacking” conjures up images of breaking into bank accounts. But these tech-savvy students are no cyber criminals. The event, dubbed “Code for Good,” challenged them to work in teams to propose tech solutions to problems in any one of four themes — poverty and inequality, health and wellness, education and energy and environment.
No experience? No problem
The hacking got rolling around 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 15. Armed with laptops and Ethernet cables, the students fanned out across three floors of the Fitzpatrick Center atrium and got to work. First-time hackers and novice programmers were welcome. Roughly half of this year’s participants were from Duke, and half were from other universities across the United States and Canada. More than 20 percent of the participants were women.
A caffeine- and sugar-fueled coding frenzy
The hackers worked non-stop for 24 hours, many with little sleep and no showers. Vast quantities of caffeine and sugar helped. Back by popular demand, after 10 p.m. the CIEMAS basement became a foam-filled battlefield for hackers in need of a nerf gun break:
Bleary-eyed hackers started presenting their solutions to the judges around 12:30 p.m. on Sunday. One team developed a cloud-based temperature sensor for monitoring premature newborns who are born at home and can’t make it to a clinic. Another team developed an app called “Ananda,” or bliss,which measures the relationship between a range of personal habits and a person’s self-reported happiness score. The winning team from each track received a $750 donation in their name to the nonprofit of their choice. Judge and IBM Program Director Ginny Ghezzo tweeted her favorites: