In the coming weeks, WakeHacks 2019 will be fully unveiled and its marketing campaign will be begin. Passing the baton can be a difficult and emotional task, but seeing the plans for our second-ever hackathon, WakeHacks 2019 has made me extremely excited for what is to come. Thus, I wanted to detail the story of how we got here and where the WakeHacks executive committee is going.

In January 2017, I was a novice computer science major looking for ways to involve myself in the department. Making money from DJing, working at the information systems service desk, and playing around with Linux systems occupied my free time (among usual college shenanigans). Gradually, I began to direct my focus towards learning about the extracurricular side of my major. After a few introductory courses, my curiosity grew and grew…

  • What do students do with their skills acquired from coursework?
  • What hard skills do universities rarely cover?
  • How do these people make viral and viable software?
  • What do computer science students do for fun (please be healthy before dedicating yourself to side projects) with their skillsets?

However, simple answers give way to rudimentary understanding. These questions were best answered to me not through speech or text, but through my own eyes by attending hackathons. Through my experience, I believe that university hackathons are the best bridge between the academic setting and the corporate world.

No, hackathons do not teach corporate strategy. No, hackathons do not expand upon algorithms research. Yet, hackathons are the best diving board that I have seen for newcomers to begin building software with purpose.

As soon as our 2016–2017 ACM President sent a department-wide email in lieu of forming a hackathon committee, I jumped on that train immediately. Apparently our department had been quietly wishing to found a hackathon for many years, but the idea never came to fruition.

Realizing that Wake Forest Unversity’s CS department had experienced ~250% growth in student majors over the past ~6 years, I thought that the timing was excellent and that our student leadership could pull it off. I fully anticipated to be one of many volunteers under preexisting upperclassmen.

Well… I entered the meeting room from said interest email and the only attendees were me and the previous ACM President.

Solid Foundations and What They Enable

Fast forward to April 2017. WakeHacks Zero was an excellent 2017 pilot hackathon in garage band format.

WTF were the founders and I doing? No clue, honestly. However, the result was awesome. Pinpointing the incentives for attendance and strategies in engagement was key, and I believe that we achieved that!

Fast forward to March 2018. WakeHacks 2018 was the best inaugural hackathon that the team could have dreamed of. Co-Director Collin Roemer and our founding committee cemented the foundation for years of hackathons to come. Our “Pro Humanitate” theme became a staple that not only benefits attendees, but also the potential communities affected by their projects.

Few things reach the same high as completing a project or event that positively impacts so many people.

Fast forward to August 2018. Sophomore Will Drake becomes the sole director of WakeHacks 2019. The annual model is taking form and big changes are coming. There’s a lot of moving pieces, new elements and exciting additions… that I can’t tell you yet (wink wink).

What I can tell you is that Will Drake and the executive committee for WakeHacks 2019 are doing an excellent job in building the hackathon that we always dreamed of making.

That’s why I am here, writing this post. Let’s take the time to talk about the future and roadmap of WakeHacks 2019!

Always Two There Are, No More, No Less

In an exciting turn of events, WakeHacks 2019 will be in Wake Forest University’s Z. Smith Reynolds Library! We firmly believe that the location of a hackathon is absolutely vital to its success. There is no stronger building with the rich culture and vast resources as ZSR. Battle-hardened from 100 player nerf gun battles and full weeks of being open 24/7 during finals have led to ZSR being a hallmark of what being a Demon Deacon is about at WFU.

May I mention, the library is TWO buildings sandwiched together? How cool is that?!

Forget my antics and dive right into one of the most exciting aspects of WakeHacks 2019! Directed by Will Drake, class of 2021, the hackathon will be 24 hours in length.

In pursuit of MLH sponsorship, WakeHacks 2019 will strive to meet all MLH hackathon requirements. At face value, this equates to a massive increase in length and attendance. Thus, the executive committee is passionate and committed to making WakeHacks 2019 meet and exceed expectations.

Z. Smith Reynolds library will be open for all attendees with 24 hours of food, internet and (nearly 100%) open access to rooms. The hackathon begins on Friday, March 29th and ends on Saturday, March 30th. The ZSR staff is committed to helping us go all out on this one.

What’s Next?

The raw numbers and logistical challenges come next. Marketing, sponsor outreach, university outreach, and many more tasks lie in the coming months.

Passing the baton can be difficult, but seeing the location and date pinned down with the greater WFU community’s heavy support has made the transition near-seamless for me.

Almost two years ago, the hackathon interest meeting had one person in attendance. Today, the weight of support stems from nearly every branch of the university and equates to thousands of people.

I am so excited to see the WakeHacks 2019 executive committee bring a fun and meaningful hackathon next year. See you at ZSR in March!