Harvard Alum Creates ‘Hack’ Program at Yale

A year after the programming initiative Hack Harvard launched on campus, a similar-sounding enterprise has taken root at Yale.

This year, third-year Yale Law School student Will T. Gaybrick ’07—who took Computer Science 50, the popular introductory course, when he was an undergraduate at Harvard and graduated with a secondary field in computer science—is running Hack Yale.

Gaybrick said the Yale version, unlike Hack Harvard, will be centered around a computer science class run by a group of students for a range of skill levels.

“[Hack Yale] is different in the sense that it’s basically a class,” said Jackson M. Kernion ’12, who participated in Hack Harvard last winter and is now on its board. “I think the general pull is similar though. They recognize, as Hack Harvard recognized, that there’s a great opportunity these days for building web apps.”

Much like Harvard’s CS50, Hack Yale has a “no experience necessary” stamp on the program—a claim that Gaybrick said is “100 percent honest.”

But unlike CS50, the course leaders are not getting paid, the program is not funded, and the students are not receiving any course credit.

“The kids don’t have to do this,” he added. “They want to.”

Gaybrick led the first lecture of Hack Yale last Wednesday. The initiative, held on Yale’s campus, is designed to teach students with any level of computer science knowledge how to program over the course of one semester.

The 50 undergraduates enrolled in the course were chosen out of a possible 500 applicants, according to Gaybrick. They meet once a week in lecture groups of 25, and an additional 30 students are taking the class remotely.

“Tech barriers have gotten lower and lower,” Gaybrick said. “People [can] get up and running pretty quickly.”

Gaybrick said he recalled how CS50 could “take you from zero to webmaster.”

Gaybrick said that he and the other five students who run Hack Yale like to “keep it small so [they] can be hands on with them.”

Hack Harvard took place for the first time last winter during Optional Winter Activities Week and was promoted as an incubator for a small group of students interested in programming and marketing a single idea.

Kernion described it as an opportunity to “intensively learn stuff you can’t learn in class. That’s the big draw.”

Kernion said that participants “get a lot of resources,” and expand upon a strong base of computer science knowledge, as opposed to starting from scratch like many students do with Hack Yale.

He also said that Hack Harvard doesn’t “take any issue” with the shared name.

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