Photo Courtesy of hackru.org

Jacqueline Ho

If you’re an insomniac out in the tri-state area who would like a weekend of computers, giveaways or new friends, HackRU is the perfect event for you. When any normal high school student hears this, they most likely have no clue what it is or think it has something to do with illegally hacking the government. Unless you have an interest in computer programming or are in the Computer Science Academy, you may not even be interested in the first place. For those who are, you probably are asking questions like this: ‘What is a hack?’, ‘What is a hackathon?’, or  ‘What really is HackRU?’. HackRU is a biannual hackathon, or an event dedicated to computer programming, where it’s hosted at Rutgers University. Basically, it is a gathering of computer savvy nerds who want to work and bond with others without a wink of sleep.

The primary objective of HackRU is for these young programmers to form teams to submit a hack or program. The hack should solve challenges presented by the hackathon’s sponsors. After twenty-four long hours of programming, the students present their hacks to interested students and the judges. The judges would reward participants based on how well and creative they went about solving the challenge. Earlier this month, the students who programmed the best hack for the Patients of the New York-Presbyterian and Morgan Stanley challenge received their choice of a 3D printer or the new Oculus Rift. So far, HackRU seems like the computer science version of a sixth grade science fair only with cooler prizes instead of ribbons. What makes HackRU such a fun experience however is what else goes on during the sleepless night.

Before night approached, the young programmers were exposed to different opportunities for internships, careers, and tech talks. At these tech talks, anyone could learn interesting topics such as building web apps or hacking NES Games. HackRU even had their keynote speaker Bjarne Stroustrup, the creator of C++,  teach one of the first tech talks of the event. It wasn’t limited to only a learning experience though. There were also fun activities and smaller challenges everyone could participate in.

At around 1:30am, there was a Smash Melee tournament where people can go for some serious button smashing or to just take a break if their program wasn’t working. Also around that time was a contest for ”Best Pajamas” where the prize was a Batman onesie. One of our own students from CSA was runner up for his “creative” idea of putting a string bag over his head holding only a bag of Doritos and Mountain Dew. First place went to a backflipping Asian in a minions onesie from the movie “Despicable Me”. To make HackRU even better, everything was absolutely free. This included all three meals of the day, ice cream, doughnuts and snacks buffet style. On top of that, the sponsors were giving out freebies such as headphones, reusable bottles, bracelets, t-shirts and more. Even if you had no programming experience, you would still definitely have the time of your life over those two days.

Unfortunately, HackRU ended in the beginning of October and won’t happen until next year during spring. Though HackRU is a competition, all participants gained valuable knowledge about the growing field, made new friends and brought home mountains of freebies. HackRU may seem frightening at first for beginners, but it certainly is an experience you’ll never want to forget. Hopefully, I’ll see all you night owls at Rutgers next spring.