“Many students had exams that week so I would see hackers work on their project for a few hours, do some studying, eat, and then get back to their projects."
Afnan Ali, Honors College student majoring computer engineering
George Mason University’s MIX@Fenwick welcomed the next generation of technology leaders and entrepreneurs at Mason’s PatriotHacks, a collegiate hackathon, the weekend of October 12–14. More than 200 students from Mason, Northern Virginia Community College, Virginia Tech, VCU, and the University of Maryland spent 36 hours coding, socializing, sharing ideas, and competing for prizes.
“The number of students who pushed themselves until the end after the long midterm exam week was amazing,” says Kammy Sanghera, Mason Engineering associate professor of Information Sciences and Technology and director of STEM Outreach. “They followed through what they started and impressed the judges with their capabilities.”
The competition culminated with an impressive 33 projects entered for judging. An Internet of Things smart trash can that automatically sorts different types of waste into specific categories won the prize for Best Sustainability Hack. An immersive lecture won the category Best Hardware and Best Virtual Reality. This project allows students to interact with objects in virtual space, making abstract objects more concrete.
Local sponsors including Accenture, CACI, Verizon, Balsamiq, GitHub, Nova Systemic, and Booz Allen Hamilton helped fund and sent representatives to the event. The hackathon was supported by MLH (Major League Hacking), Mason’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the Volgenau School of Engineering, College of Science, and Mason Game and Technology Academy.
Sanghera says an unexpected benefit happened during the awards ceremony when local sponsor Accenture invited their award recipients for informational/first round interviews and a visit to their local Accenture Digital Studio or Arlington Cyber Fusion Center.
In addition to hacking, the students enjoyed delicious cuisine from Teriyaki Madness, Cafe Río, McAlister’s, and Halal Guys. When they weren’t engaged in one of many workshops offered throughout the weekend, participants took advantage of other activities, including a cup-stacking contest, salsa dancing, video games, and even a Tai Chi class led by Mason’s Confucius Institute.
Students, sponsors, volunteers, and organizers look forward to hosting another hackathon next year and possibly adding tracks for medicine/healthcare and arts/entertainment. When asked if he would do this again, Honors College student Afnan Ali says, “300 percent yes. I’m excited to do this again next year and have even heard requests from students asking we do it again next semester.”
“The best part of the hackathon was the expo at the end where students shared their projects. Throughout the weekend, there was a sense of magic coming from students as they worked tirelessly on their ideas and seeing the results at the expo was worth the wait."
Jonathon Vega, information systems and operations management