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KU Engineering 'hackathon' earns national ranking

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas put on one of the nation’s top “hackathons” during the 2018-19 school year, a national organization has announced.

Major League Hacking, which provides resources to hackathons and ranks them, placed KU 25th among all North American schools for the hackathon it staged in February 2019. The university’s ranking was aided by a stellar attendance score, which ranks the attendance at KU’s hackathon, as well as the number of KU students who attend other MLH-recognized hackathons. KU’s attendance score ranked 13th among the North American schools.

“I think they were happy with our performance,” said Harrison Luo, a senior in computer science who served as the 2018-2019 Chair of HackKU, which sponsored the February event. “This is our first real breakout year.”

Hackathons have been described as “invention marathons.” Teams of students — high school, undergraduate or graduate — gather in one spot for several days to apply their coding and other technical skills to create ideas for apps, websites, robots and more. Major League Hacking is the umbrella organization for the events and oversees more than 200 hackathons a year.

The event also allows students to collaborate with area tech companies that sponsor the event and help provide prizes for the hackathon winners.

“First and foremost, it’s important for students at the university because it gives students the opportunity to learn outside the classroom setting,” Luo said. “It’s a great way for students to network with companies and faculty. It’s also mutually beneficial for the university, because it gives us exposure to talented students in the area as well as companies that are interested in hiring KU students.”

HackKU’s hackathon was Feb. 8-10 and included time for technical workshops. Prizes for event winners included an Oculus Go virtual reality headset and a GoPro Drone.

“We had a really strong showing from KU and a bunch of other universities. We had about 230 participants from KU and universities throughout the Midwest. That number was a lot higher than we were anticipating,” Luo said. “That really helped our ranking.”

He added that the event was a learning experience for the student organizers.

“In terms of planning, I’d say leadership is the number one thing everyone on the board took from planning the event,” he said. “Not only did the participants get a lot out of the hackathon, but so did the people who planned it.”

Planning is already underway for HackKU’s next event, to be held over 36 hours Feb. 7-9, 2020, in the School of Engineering’s LEEP2 building. The event is free for all participants. Organizers hope to expand the appeal of — and participation in — the hackathon.

“We’re excited to have more people coming,” Luo said. “We’re focused on having more people from more majors outside of engineering.”

For more information on HackKU’s 2020 event, go to HackKU.org.


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