On October 10th, after countless months of preparation, we successfully helped thousands of students attend their first hackathon and tens of campuses throw their first hacker event through Local Hack Day. Local Hack Day (or LHD for short) is a 12 hour mini-hackathon that takes place on school campuses around the world. It’s designed to be a gentle introduction to hackathons that celebrates the local community. This year, there were a total of 88 events spanning across 14 countries, such as India, Cyprus, Brazil, Mexico, Puerto Rico, all over Europe, and much more. The efforts of our global outreach in Local Hack Day tallied approximately 4,000 participants worldwide. Though the numbers may seem significant, I still wanted to experience firsthand the magnitude of the emerging hackathon movement. So Syeef and I (as if we don’t travel enough—Syeef flew over from the UK) decided to go on a little adventure and visit the nearby events.
The central team roster stationed at NYC HQ was Shy (Deputy Commissioner), Carl (former BrickHack organizer), and Jade (former HackRU organizer) with Cassidy from Clarifai joining them later in the day. The four of them rotated behind the camera and served as hosts to keep every hacker across the globe up to date with what was going on at each location. On our travels Syeef and I tuned into the global Google Hangout streaming from our NYC HQ to give live updates from each event we visited.
Syeef and I arrived at our NYC HQ around 8:30am EST. Local Hack Day was already six hours underway, with our three colleagues in the UK streaming their antics to other parts of the world. Right before the team began to gear up for Eastern time Local Hack Day in the US, we had a quick donut and coffee break. Later both Syeef’s and my names were called to hop on the live stream to announce the official US kickoff.
We traveled to six events: two in Manhattan, two in the Bronx, and two in New Jersey including my alma mater, Rutgers University! That’s over 150 miles of traveling, but that didn’t hold us back. Our ride, you ask? Jade’s Volkswagen Beetle, which unintentionally matched the color of our team shirts.
It was equipped with an overstock of fresh leftover snacks from HackRU, the inside was filled with an overwhelming aroma of a thousand crayons, and the trunk was stacked with board games to play with hackers. The board games weren’t necessary, though, because we had the Oculus Rift DK2 on deck for their entertainment.
This event had a little friendly competition down Broadway at General Assembly’s office. The Young Hackers, a group of NYC High School students, were off the walls by the time we arrived. Some of them were riding on long boards giving piggyback rides, photographers were actively snapping photos from all angles, and there was a huge conference room for workshops isolated from all the hype.
The excitement continued to escalate when we reached the Bronx at Fordham Foundry led by Tom O’Connell. We barged into the venue looking for him so we could get him on the live stream right away, but he was giving a talk when we arrived. Once Syeef and I stepped into the classroom to check it out, his assistant points in our direction and says, “The real superstars are here, and they brought an Oculus Rift!”
Tom’s young attendees requested we set it up immediately, and we did just that. The hackers here were quite lively. Everyone lined up to outlast the horror of the 11:57 demo (a virtual reality horror film) and we caught some intense Major League Cup Stacking action as well. The one aspect that I loved most from this crowd was what they represented. Their shirt design was nicely printed with the words “Diversity in Tech.” It was fun meeting all sorts of characters with various backgrounds in that building.
We then proceeded to make a quick stop at Bronx High School of Science which had some of the youngest hackers on the East Coast. Age was nothing but a number when comes to one of the organizers, Jack Cook. He attended the most hackathons (19 of them) at MLH, including Hack The Planet. He also contributed to the Local Hack Day live stream by flexing out a Flask tutorial. The crew appeared to be winding down and hanging out in the last few hours of the day.
The next stop was in Hackensack, NJ, at a high school called Bergen County Academies. The level of experience at HackBCA, their yearly hackathon, is quite comparable to the universities who are hosting major events. I remember hanging out at HackBCA last spring repping MLH where they had hundreds of high school students and top notch mentors in their gymnasium. They pulled out all the stops to put on a great Local Hack Day as well. Sarah Nathanson (lead organizer) and Jared Zoneraich were already talking about the future of HackBCA and how much bigger it will be compared to the last one.
We finally reached Rutgers University at the final hour of Local Hack Day. It took place in the legendary CAVE. For those of you who don’t know what the CAVE is, it has a long history of incredible hackers who used to hang out there, including alumni and MLH co-founder Mike Swift. Tech meetups, Smash Tournaments, recitations, and other recreational events have occurred here, so Local Hack Day was nothing new to its progressive culture.
It felt good seeing many different people with such a strong interest in hacking and who are willing to build their own micro community of makers. I mean anybody could get that feeling from attending one hackathon, but to know that there are many hackathons happening near you is sensational and pretty mind-blowing. Based on what we’ve seen, the future of hackathons is in good hands. A special shout-out goes to Shy and the rest of the LHD crew for making this happen. If this gets any bigger next year, I don’t know how I’m going to be able to catch more events than we did this day, which is a good thing.
If you want to follow along with our whole journey, take a look at the photo album on Facebook. Have your own album? Send it our way! We’d love to share it with the rest of the LHD community.
Side Note: I would love to see more people do this in different states!