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Hacking It

YU Inaugural Hackathon Draws Diverse Crowd for 24-Hour Computer Programming Event

From 9 p.m. Saturday night to 9 p.m. Sunday night, the Heights Lounge on Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus became the base of operations for YU’s first-ever Hackathon, an event that brings computer programmers together for hours and sometimes days of non-stop collaboration on computer software and hardware.

Students from colleges and universities across the tri-state area—including Cooper Union, Columbia University, New York University, Manhattan Community College, University of Massachusetts and Carnegie Mellon University—joined forces to create a host of new programs that ranged from developing code to teach a robot to sing “Happy birthday” to an interactive Daf Yomi website.

“The goal of the event is to encourage computer science students to use their knowledge outside school and to show that computer science is a field that expands beyond textbooks and homework projects,” said Marcos Sasson, president of the Yeshiva College Computer Science Club, which organized the event together with its counterpart on the Stern College for Women campus. “It’s also just an awesome opportunity to educate students about the computer science department at YU.”

Mentors from all backgrounds, including many YU alumni, were on hand throughout the 24-hour period to help students fine-tune their projects and share their expertise. Some had founded their own startup companies, while others were web developers for investment bankers and other companies.

hackathon5For Shaina Drazen, a Stern College student who hopes to pursue a career in computer science, the event was the perfect opportunity to learn more about the field while meeting and collaborating with like-minded peers. “I thought it would be fun to get more experience in coding and hacking,” she said.

Some student groups stayed up all night and all day hashing out the details of their projects, while others worked in shifts. The event drew more than 70 students in total.

For Doni Schwartz, a student from Columbia, the YU Hackathon was especially appealing because many other university hackathons are typically held on Saturdays: “Columbia has one hackathon a year, but it’s on Shabbos, which is why this one is so awesome.”

The author, Ilan Brownstein, is a junior in Sy Syms School of Business, majoring in marketing.