HackPrinceton, the semiannual hackathon organized by the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club, brought in around 500 participants this weekend for a 24-hour software and hardware competition.
“HackPrinceton is not just an event where you make a project and it’s like, ‘Who can win this?’ It’s much more about the holistic process of learning and being here,”Raeva Kumar ’17, a HackPrincetonco-director, said.
The software track is very well-developed and represents the majority of the hacks that take place at the hackathon, Kumar said, but the University's electrical engineering department helps to facilitate the hardware track with the use of labs and equipment.
The Entrepreneurship Club awarded three prizes in each of the software and hardware categories.
In the hardware category, Joseph Bolling ’15, Ted Brundage GS and Ankush Gola ’15 took first place for a remote-controlled car controlled by the movement of fish in a mounted fish tank. Quentin Caudron and Romain Garnier, postdoctoral research associates in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, won third place for a mousetrap that could capture a specific type of mouse, an invention with applications in scientific experiments.
Bolling, Brundage, Gola, Caudron and Garnier did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The second-place winners were from Yale.
In the software category, the first-place winner came from Western University, second place winners were from Brown, Boston University and SUNY Polytechnic Institute Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering,and the third-place recipient was from the University of Oklahoma.
In addition to the competition, HackPrinceton presented workshops and speakers, most prominently Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt ’76 who delivered a keynote address Saturday afternoon, as well as Edward Felten, professor of computer science and public affairs and director of the Center for Information Technology Policy, who spoke at the closing ceremonies on Sunday.
HackPrinceton is notable among hackathons for its mentorship system, Kumar said.
“It really comes down to this passion for just building something — just being able to create some project … that you find interesting, something that you’ll learn from or something that’ll hopefully make an impact,” Liu said.
Kumar said that she views HackPrinceton as an opportunity to repair the problems present in the tech industry, since the small scale of HackPrinceton allows for experimentation.
“We always try to get people excited about the possibilities there are in using tech to achieve something that they haven’t done before,”Jerry Liu ’17,a HackPrincetonco-director, said.
In the future, HackPrinceton hopes to engage more students and bring in people from different backgrounds, Kumar said.
“We are in service to Princeton University,” she said. “One of our biggest concerns is getting Princeton University students to hack. We think that learning theory is very important and what we do in the classroom is invaluable, but in order to supplement that, we think that the work that is done here at HackPrinceton is essential.”
HackPrinceton also seeks to encourage more women to hack. At this hackathon, roughly 30 to 40 percent of participants were women, which is very rare in hackathons, Kumar said, adding that the numbers would ideally be closer to 50-50.
Stephanie He ’15, president of the Entrepreneurship Club and former co-director of HackPrinceton, said she hopes that more people with non-technical skills will come in the future to participate in learning about technology.
“There’s this really big hackathon culture happening, where people are encouraging everyone else to build and to work on projects in their free time,” she said, adding that HackPrinceton’s popularity reflects how college students, at the University or otherwise, are excited to work on hacks.
HackPrinceton should show that hacking is accessible not just to computer science majors, but also to students studying other areas, she said, adding that it fosters an open culture and has a large focus on mentorship and accessibility.
There is now a lot more focus on coming to the hackathon for the sake of learning rather than winning prizes, she said.
“Encouragement is really embedded in the HackPrinceton culture,” she said.