Students Organize First-ever Bowdoin Hackathon

Ruben Martinez ’15 is quick to reassure people who raise their eyebrows when they hear about the event he wants to bring to Bowdoin. “Hackathons aren’t about breaking into things,” he explains. “They’re about building things.”

In the sense he’s using the term, to hack means to build something quickly in a scrappy, innovative way without a lot of resources.

With this positive vision in mind, Martinez and the Bowdoin student group IT Advisory Council are organizing Bowdoin’s first ever Hackathon, the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin Hackathon, on Feb. 6-8. Hackathons are like endurance competitions for computer programmers, entrepreneurs and graphic artists. Collaborating in teams, competitors come up with a novel software program or idea over the course of the event — sometimes it’s 36 hours, sometimes longer.

Ruben Martinez ’15

Ruben Martinez ’15

The CBB Hackathon will take place over 36 hours in Smith Union. ITAC is expecting between 100 to 150 students will participate from Bowdoin and other Maine colleges and universities. Martinez hopes that both computer science students and other majors sign up. “We’re making it open to people who are not technical,” he said. “You can build a mock-up, or a business plan,” as well as an actual coded program.

Martinez competed in his first hackathon last winter in Michigan. With a team of three other college students, he built a new academic textbook buying program. “You get very little sleep and drink lots of energy drinks,” he said. “It’s quite an adventure.”

Before the Bowdoin Hackathon kicks off on the evening of Feb. 6 on Friday, ITAC has invited alumni to attend a networking event with students at the College. The hackathon will start after the party and continue through Sunday. Some of the alumni will stay through the weekend and serve as advisors for the frantically working students. Martinez said that the guest list includes Sean Marsh ’95 of Point Judith Capital, Ben Johnson ’11 of Raizlabs, Alec Berryman ’07 from Google and Wils Dawson ’13 from Okta. “Local entrepreneurs and techies” include Jason Cianchette, formerly of Liquid Wireless, Jess Knox from the Maine Technology Institute, Bill Silver of Cognex, and representatives from Code for Maine.

On Sunday morning, the students will present their outcomes to a team of judges. Top prizes include tech gadgets, gift cards and mentorship from Bowdoin alumni.

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