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MHacks 11

October 26, 2018

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Two weeks ago I attended MHacks 11 in Ann Arbor, MI. It’s a 36-hour hackathon from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon. It’s about a 1,100 mile / 18 hour drive round-trip so I went with a couple friends to make it more manageable.

It was my first (and likely last due to my upcoming graduation) time attending MHacks. I’ve wanted to attend for a while — I’ve heard great things from previous attendees — it’s just hard to logistically make work with missing classes, school, work, and then the drive itself. Nonetheless, I was #hyped to be able to attend this year.

Swag

Swag is one of the de-facto aspects to hackathons and MHacks had some really cool swag from themselves & sponsors.

A non-exhaustive swag list:

Venue

Admittedly I haven’t spent much time in Ann Arbor and almost no time on U of M’s campus. The building itself seemed to work pretty well: multiple bathrooms, a large main” area, and a dedicated food room. I didn’t do much exploring outside the venue while I was there but I did get a chance to try out Insomnia Cookies (via delivery!) which were, as expected, insomnia-inducing.

Unfortunately, not being able to leave until mid-morning on Friday meant we arrived at the event after the initial registration. The hacking didn’t start until midnight so we didn’t miss too much however we were unable to call dibs on a table for the weekend. This was not ideal, but we managed.

Food

MHacks had some fantastic food. Period. The food seemed to typically happen on schedule and it was partitioned out based on wrist-band color as to avoid too much congestion. The choices were varied with the only real redundant options being during breakfast. I personally don’t have any food allergies or restrictions but I appreciated that they were inclusive and provided options for people who did.

The most memorable meal was the last one: catered sub sandwiches individually packaged in separate boxes with chips & a cookie.

Project

Of course, I must touch on the project my friends & I created during the event. The one-sentence elevator pitch would be:

It’s like Quizlet but with SMS.”

Users register with their name & phone number. Next, they create topics to contain question/answer pairs. Within a topic, a single button click will send a random question followed by the answer shortly after. It uses MongoDB Stitch as the serverless backend & Twilio for sending SMS.

In traditional hackathon fashion the code is entirely too fragile, hacky, & generally non-robust so the project only lived locally for demoing during the expo. It would be cool to circle back to the project & update it to a state that I’m comfortable releasing it on the web.

Takeaways

I’m a core organizer for the hackathon my university hosts. Attending MHacks was an eye-opening experience to see how an event that brings in 500+ attendees from across the country handles all the aspects of hosting a hackathon. I was particularly impressed by how they setup their Slack workspace and how organizers, attendees, mentors, and sponsors interacted within it.

Posted on October 26, 2018   #hackathon     #misc  


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