Quarantine hackathon aims to improve student life
By Melanie Lefkowitz
Quarantining for two weeks at home in Canada after campus shut down in the spring, Han Wang ’22 found that working on a project made him feel more productive and positive.
When Wang learned that all students would need to quarantine while they waited for their COVID-19 test results this semester, he and a group of friends thought of a way to not only help their fellow students make positive use of the time, but perhaps improve campus life during the pandemic.
With co-organizers Rebecca Fu ’21, Ansh Godha ’22, Megan Yin ’22 and Conner Swenberg ’21, Wang created HackOurCampus, a virtual hackathon scheduled for Aug. 26-29. During the event, students waiting for their test results can work together in teams and with mentors to develop products aimed at improving college life during the pandemic.
“I remember from my own experience quarantining that working on a project that was impactful kind of helped,” said Wang, an information science major. “It was really a great way to pass the time and I thought, I kind of want to share that opportunity with other students.”
Students in any college, major or class year, including incoming freshmen, are invited to participate; juniors, seniors and recent alumni will function as mentors to help those with fewer technical skills. Prizes will be offered in four categories: health care and social distancing; virtual learning; mental health; and people’s choice.
Each of four winning teams will receive a semester of mentorship to bring their ideas to fruition, and share a $500 prize.
“It could be anything from something that helps students socialize or a safe tool for online learning to some sort of a task manager that improves coordination between professors and students,” Godha said. “One of the most exciting parts of this is to see what kinds of ideas students have.”
The organizers are developing recorded workshops that participants can watch to familiarize themselves with topics including machine learning, design and pitching, and will help form teams by polling participants about their interests. More than 150 students have registered to participate so far.
“A virtual hackathon equalizes opportunity for everyone,” Fu said. “International students who weren’t able to come back this semester, or any student who isn’t able to come back for any reason – everyone’s invited to come together and hack solutions.”
The hackathon is being hosted in collaboration with the Cornell Design and Tech Initiative and Cornell AppDev. The registration deadline is Aug. 21; those interested in participating in HackOurCampus can register here.