Join RevolutionUC: A Hackathon for All

Written by Chris Pasion, graduate assistant to The Graduate School.

A stock image of a bunch of rows of computers each with people working at them.

What comes to mind when you read the word “hackathon”? If the word conjures up ideas of cyber security, massive rooms full of supercomputers, and people toiling away at their desktops through the wee hours of the night, then you’re not alone. And while these ideas are not totally off the mark, there is much more to the hackathon picture. UC is set to host the RevolutionUC Hackathon event (RevUC), and you – regardless of major, programming experience, or preconceived notions of hacking – are invited.

RevUC is a multi-day event; the hackathon itself will take place over the course of 24 hours, starting at 1:00 p.m. on February 20th. Participants will assemble into teams at the beginning of the event (max of four people) with the goal of creating a finished project in the allotted time. The types of possible projects are wide-ranging and limited only to your imagination; you can create a game, a website, an answer to a complex societal problem, a meme, and so on. Projects from years past include software that tracks the energy levels of truck drivers, a DIY autonomous lawn mower, and even a toaster made from a repurposed VHS player. Yes, you can get that creative. And if you still need inspiration, check out RevUC’s Hack Ideas page for some guidance.

The project deliverables of the hackathon are not limited to just the hack itself, as all projects need direction and must be presented and explained in a way that appeals to the judges. This is where business students, art students, and those in the humanities can become a valuable asset to their team. Kunal Kewalramani, a computer science student and an organizer behind RevUC, says that “One thing that hackathons have in general is diverse perspectives. It’s not only about engineering or computer science. We are trying to be as multidisciplinary as possible.” The hackathon is open to all experience levels, from those with no coding knowledge to those with vast experience. RevUC will have mentors and advisors available around the clock to assist on projects, as well as workshops and networking opportunities built into the event.

A group of UC students working in a computer lab.

Ankur Bhattacharya, the vice president of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Graduate Student Association and a judge at RevUC, adds that “Teams with people in the business world often succeed, because they can give direction to a project. Planning a hackathon involves that. It doesn’t have to be the most complex system in the planet, it can be something which is useful to the times. More often than not, this is the case.”

The hackathon’s multidisciplinary approach is also seen in the prizes, as there are diverse categories that include Best UI, Best Game, Best Meme, Best Useless Hack, and many others. Each prize will have its own judging criteria, but in general the judges are looking for teamwork, innovation, and collaboration. In addition, the sponsors of the event, which include Fifth Third Bank, EA, 84.51°, Kinetic Vision, and others, will have their own prize categories and judging criteria. RevUC is a great opportunity to work with major companies and to get your hard work in front of them.

A group of students working in the library at a white board and on their computers.

One good thing about the hackathon is that it lends itself well to the online learning environment. “Now that it’s virtual, we will get a lot of participants worldwide,” Kunal says. “We’ll get people from India, from China, from Europe, from anywhere.” And yes, even people from neighboring universities such as OSU and Purdue. In addition, the hackathon is open to people from anywhere their educational journey, from undergraduates to doctoral students and even high schoolers. We as graduate students have had historically low participation in campus events, so RevUC will be a great opportunity to get involved and compete with other members of the campus community.

“A hackathon is what you want of it,” Kunal concludes. “I think the best approach with each hackathon is not to aim for winning, it’s to aim for learning.” 

Attending the RevolutionUC Hackathon is completely free, and registration is open until the start of the event. Fill out the registration form to participate and visit RevUC’s website to learn more about the event and to see past projects.