It was massive.
It was chaotic.
It was awesome.
It was MHacks, one of the largest college hackathons in the country. This year, the 36 hour hackathon drew over 1100 student hackers to the University of Michigan campus, a population that includes high schoolers and people from as far as India and Australia.
Here are some highlights from the weekend:
Opening Ceremony Highlights
The weekend kicked off with an opening keynote from Reddit co-founder and Y Combinator partner Alexis Ohanian, working with new material following the conclusion of his 86-stop “Without Their Permission” bus-book tour:
“Go out of your way to bring in someone who hasn’t written a line of code before. Bonus points if they don’t look anything like you. Because this is how we’re going to get the world of the future that we deserve. The world of the future that benefits from the talent and the genius and the brilliance of everyone… of as many people as we can.” [16:30]
During the Hackathon
As the 36 hour hackathon rolled along, hackers also got the opportunity to attend a bunch of great tech talks from mentor companies, including Jawbone, Facebook, Parse, Capital One, and Goldman Sachs. Hackers wandering around late on Saturday night also got to see Quixey CEO Tomer Kagan (pictured right) give a candid, impromptu, side-of-the-street seminar on a wide, varying range of topics. “I’m so incredibly tired but this was so worth it,” said a hacker to me after the crowd dispersed from the street-side, before taking a long pull from his Red Bull can.
There were also a ton of activities set up by MLH. Tim Fogarty, MLH’s UK commissioner who flew in from Nottingham to attend MHacks, organized a coding challenge called “Code in the Dark,” in which hackers were invited to replicate the front-end of a website by hand, on the spot, and without open-book resources or the automated help by text editors. Saturday night also saw a Namecheap-sponsored laser tag battle royale on the university’s “Wave Hill” — named for its strange terrain that mimics sinusoidal waves.
Demos and Closing Ceremony
The closing ceremony began with a keynote by John Maeda, senior design partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufiled & Byers:
With my venture capital hat on, I can firmly that yes, there are riches out there to be made, there are exits to be created, there are ownership percentages to be calculated… But try not to forget that you are part of grand mission where technologists, designers, people like yourselves, are shaping culture in a way that can be hugely positive or hugely negative depending on the choices you make.
The winning hack was a beautiful, elegant little thing called the “Power Glove 2.0.” Built by Daniel Kim, Jennings Jin, and gnawang, all three from the University of Michigan. The hack is an affordable and customizable VR system that specifically focuses finger and hand movement interaction with the computer. The “glove” itself is actually a series of wires that tracks along each finger, and it’s able to correspond with the digital avatar on what seems to be a joint-level basis. Kim demoed the glove on-stage with Surgeon Simulator 2013 (which, let’s face it, is the best game out on Steam right now), and the interaction looked nothing short of seamless.
A fantastic hack by any and all means.
For more pictures of MHacks, head over to MLH’s photo album on Facebook.
And while you’re at it, leave a comment, and let us know what you thought about the hacks!