Monday, April 16, 2018

HackXX aims to increase diversity at hackathons

HackXX, a women-centric hackathon run by UC San Diego students, held its inaugural project creation and development sprint in 2017. The second edition of the hackathon didn't disappoint: more than 100 undergraduate students spent 24 consecutive hours the weekend of April 7 honing their web development, computer-aided design, 3D printing, machine learning and virtual reality skills at HackXX.

The hackathon, open to undergraduate students from any academic background, gender and sexual identity, aims to provide a space where all innovators feel welcome.

“If you look at the data, it shows that only around 20 percent of hackathon participants happen to be women,” said Hamna Khan, an electrical engineering student and organizer of HackXX, which was hosted and run by the Triton Engineering Student Council. “That’s not OK. If technology is what’s making our world a better place, then everyone needs to be represented.”

In addition to workshops and time for teams to develop and build a project of their own, HackXX also featured remarks from Jayashree Atre, former senior director of product development at Intuit; an Acing your Phone Interview session hosted by Northrop Grumman; and a Deep Dive into Machine Learning forum held by Cisco.

After 24 hours, all the projects were judged by two panels: a group of engineers from Northrop Grumman awarded three prizes for the Best Communications Projects, and the second panel of judges awarded best beginner and best overall project awards.

Kathy Herring Hayashi, the IEEE Women Engineering Region Coordinator for the Western United States and an engineer at Qualcomm, was a general judge, along with Nisha Yerunkar, president of the UC San Diego VR Club.

The Grand Prize-winning team—Any-A— walked away with a BeatsX, BB8 Droid, Echo Spot, a Samsung Gear VR as well as an Echo Dot for each winning participant.

Any-A is a Java application that helps elementary school students practice basic math problems with a random math generator. The team’s goal was to empower girls in elementary school by helping them solve math problems and giving them early exposure to female role models in math in the form of an “Encouragement” feature where users receive encouragement from famous female mathematicians.

Northrop Grumman awarded their $500 first place gift card to team InfoPuppies, which created a website containing a centralized database for dog microchip information.

Aside from apps and websites, there were a variety of virtual and augmented reality projects, software development endeavors and even a blockchain project, all created in less than 24 hours.

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