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With one hand on a Red Bull and one hand flying across the keyboard of a MacBook, Boston University senior Andy Shen showed off the computer project he made while spending 36 hours at HackHarvard’s 2015 hackathon.
The event, which lasted from Friday to Sunday, saw hundreds of students from multiple universities converge on Harvard’s campus to create digital projects using new technology.
Sponsors of the event included Microsoft, Facebook, Capital One, Twitter, and Google, and representatives from the companies gave advice to the students, many of whom stayed up all night working on their projects.
“You can ask [the representatives] for advice on how to use their tools,” Shen said. “It’s really personal.”
Organizers of the hackathon said this year’s conference drew a particularly diverse crowd.
“We have people who are involved with government and education who are pairing with experienced CS kids, and coming together to combine their interests and create one really cool project,” said Eric S. Timmerman ’19, one of the organizers.
Zehra Naz ’15, one of the mentors from Microsoft, praised the hackathon environment.
“All this innovation in one place,” she said. “Yes, you can use Google or Bing search, but it’s different being in a place with all these people using the newest technologies.”
She added that the presence of professional mentors allowed students to innovate during the event.
“You have the help right there, the resources right in this room to make your product happen,” Naz said. “Having all these resources in one room accelerates your learning and your development time, because you know there are people there to help you.”
She said that even the advisors learned from the other people in the room.
“I personally learned a lot at this hackathon,” she said. “I know from talking to people that they learned a lot as well. There was even a group of people who said that they were going to use the next 36 hours not to make a product, but to go through and learn.”
Naz said she is proud of her alma mater for providing students with these opportunities to experience new technology.
“When I came in, in 2011, the [Computer Science] community was really small,” she said. “Now we have hackathons. We as students get to interact with companies and interact with people in tech.”
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