September 9, 2015
As many as 250 coders, designers, hackers and entrepreneurial-minded students from across Virginia Commonwealth University — as well as many other colleges and universities — will take part in VCU’s second annual 24-hour hackathon, RamHacks.
The hackathon, in which teams of up to four students will collaboratively design software or hardware applications, will be held Sept. 12–13 at the VCU School of Engineering. The event, which is organized by the School of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science, is open to all VCU students, as well as any other student enrolled at a college or university.
“It’s like a real-time science fair,” said co-organizer Ryan Murphy, a senior in the Department of Computer Science. “These students come in — sometimes with an idea, sometimes not — and they spend the 24 hours making their idea business viable or maybe making a rough prototype. And in the end, they pitch that idea and they get judged on what they’ve made, and have a chance to win prizes.”
A number of companies are sponsoring RamHacks and will propose projects for the student teams to tackle that incorporate the companies’ innovations. Included among this year’s sponsors are Capital One, Accenture, CapTech, Clever Devices, CloudBees, Websmith Group, AuthX and EDU Inc.
“The sponsors have the option of creating a challenge, which can be a specific [project] that a hacker works on for the entire 24 hours, or it can be broad enough that they just have to incorporate it into their own idea,” Murphy said.
The idea behind RamHacks is to showcase VCU and its Department of Computer Science, and to give the students the hands-on experience they need to see what it takes to create software and hardware applications for companies.
“[One of the goals is] to expose our students to giant IT companies,” said Krzysztof J. Cios, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science. “This already works — our students win awards at all hackathons they attend — and our undergraduate and graduate students are hired by companies like Google and Apple, which motivates other students to compete in programming competitions.”
The event’s co-sponsors stressed that RamHacks isn’t just for coders. For example, they said, design students in the School of Arts and entrepreneurial-minded students from across the university are encouraged to attend.
“We normally find that people think they aren’t good enough to participate in a hackathon, but it’s really for everybody,” Murphy said. “If you don’t know much, you can come and learn. You can find a team that will teach you. It’s not about the competition, it’s about learning.”
Spectators are also welcome, Murphy added.
“Come out and have fun,” he said. “See what it’s all about.”
RamHacks has grown over the past year, thanks to word of mouth and the help of key supporters, Cios said.
“We have more sponsors than last year because the word is spreading out that we started organizing it,” he said. “Special thanks go to several member companies of the Computer Science Industrial Advisory Board. Thanks are also due to the School of Engineering dean, Barbara Boyan, Ph.D., for her support and to its marketing and fundraising departments.”
To learn more about the event, go to ramhacks.vcu.edu.