MHacks is well underway, and over a thousand hackers are currently flooding the EECS and BBB buildings at the University of Michigan. MLH News is currently on the scene, and we sat down with MHacks Director (and snackathon fiend) Vikram Rajagopalan for a quick chat.
What excites you about MHacks?
We’re super excited when hackers from across the USA or world come to MHacks, meet, and become great friends. It has happened at MHacks many times before, and its one of the most rewarding elements of the hackathon besides from seeing the amazing projects and hacks that are created.
We believe that MHacks, and hackathons in general, are all about reminding students that the process of learning belongs to the student— you can teach yourself anything, mentor others and build your ideas on your own initiative. At the end of the day, hackathons really don’t offer hackers much besides from an awesome environment, great people and food. The rest is their initiative, and MHacks hackers have tons of it.
What is the hacker culture like at the University of Michigan? Is it considered part of mainstream student culture? What’s the Comp Sci department like?
As a result of a few successive MHacks, it now is! Students wear startup, hacker and MHacks t shirts around campus, and Comp Sci students are all over campus— not just in one location or part of the campus. Other disciplines also produce hackers at Michigan— we have biomedical hackers, English major hackers, Design major hackers, its really taken off, and the community is quite strong and spans multiple clubs.
The Comp Sci department at UMichigan has been incredibly supportive of MHacks, even when bureaucracy isn’t. They gave us our venue and have supported MHacks since the very beginning. Many professors recommend that students attend MHacks to see CS in a real world context. The faculty is also really supportive about students going into the industry — We have recruiters come to campus all of the time, and professors are awesome about making connections for students and getting them involved in companies big and small. We also have a Startup Career Fair, an MPowered Entrepreneurship event that brings startups from Detroit and the Valley to Michigan once a year. Its a blast and thousands of students attend.
What happens to UMichigan Hackers when they graduate? Do they move to Detroit, Chicago, or Wisconsin? Or do they hit the coasts?
All of the above. Detroit is starting to become more popular, but for summer internships and full time, we send a lot of grads to the Valley, NYC— not so much Chicago (or people aren’t talking about it as much).
According to my notes, you’re a sophomore. And yet, you’re the director of MHacks! Tell me about your relationship with the hackathon.
I am a sophomore. I didn’t go to MHacks II, and I volunteered at MHacks III. It’s been a wild ride, and fortunately the student organization I belong to, MPowered, believes that people grow most when they’re put in shoes way too big for them. How true that is. [Ed. note: MPowered Entreneurship is a co-organizer of MHacks, with Michigan Hackers]
What is the best hack you’ve ever seen?
There was an Oculus Rift Quidditch hack at MHacks III that blew my mind. They used existing technology and built it in 36 hours. Anything’s possible.