Are you a student who likes using your hands to create things? Do you want to gain some real-life learning experience outside of the classroom? ArchHacks might be just the thing for you. Co-organizers Stephanie Mertz, Allen Osgood and their team have turned this previously school-specific hackathon into a regional event and expect to pull in five times as many students for the competition as in previous years.
Here are the top ten things you need to know about ArchHacks:
1. ArchHacks is a 48-hour, weekend hackathon held November 4-6th at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Students from all over the region are expected to come together during this event to build their very own tech projects. The hackathon, previously called WUHack, is in its third year of running and has grown in size with each edition.
2. Participants are college or university level students at least 18 years of age. Prizes, as always, will be awarded at ArchHacks. But, restricting the participation to students gives the hackathon an “education centered view.” “Prizes are fun, but we want [the students] to be rewarded for thinking about new problems,” explains Stephanie.
3. Students should expect to be actively engaged throughout the weekend and learn hands-on skills. The event opens with a dinner for all participants, where students who came into St. Louis without a team will be able to meet others and form partnerships. Next, an opening ceremony will introduce the event’s top sponsors, lay out the expectations, and describe the weekend’s activities. Students will then break up into their teams to decide what problem they would like to spend the next forty-five hours of the weekend thinking about. “That will involve going to mentors and getting feedback on the problems that they’re interested in solving. And then they’ll use the time until Sunday to get feedback from professional mentors who will be available throughout their time there,” says Stephanie. Then finally on Sunday, students will demo their projects to judges, the other students, and people just interested in seeing these creations. The event concludes on Sunday with a closing ceremony where prizes will be awarded.
4. Between 600-800 students are expected to attend the 2016 ArchHacks.
5. HealthTech is the theme for this year’s ArchHacks competition. This focus gives students from all different disciplines the opportunity to create something that could actually impact people’s health and well-being.
6. St. Louis is a pretty relevant place to hold a HealthTech-centric hackathon. St. Louis is packed with medical students, including those at Washington University in St. Louis, one of the top medical school destinations in the country. Many corporate leaders in the HealthTech space, including Arch Hacks’ lead sponsor Express Scripts, call the city home, as well as numerous startups in health-related fields. “It’s really a unique combination that St. Louis has where we have the expansive medical background, the corporate resources, and startup drive, and the technical talent, all in one area,” explains Stephanie. “We thought that here in St. Louis, we were uniquely poised to bring the resources together to enable [a HealthTech themed hackathon].”
7. The ArchHacks application process takes a quick, painless 10 minutes. The application is mainly in place to ensure that ArchHacks only accepts the number of students that they can host. The form asks some basic questions to gage students’ interest in the event and background and to address any necessities or accommodations, like dietary restrictions, that students may have to ensure that everyone has a great time at the event. “If you haven’t been to a hackathon, that’s ok. We’re just interested in what other things you may have been involved in,” explains Stephanie. Students are encouraged to email ArchHacks at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
8. The whole process is free, from the application to the food. “We want to be able to give free or partially reimbursed transportation for all students who are accepted and make sure that we can offer them really great food while they’re here, so that way nothing is out of pocket for them. …We don’t want anyone’s ability to pay be barrier to this,” says Stephanie.
9. A hackathon is a one-of-a-kind, hands-on, skills building experience. “I think what’s really unique about going to a hackathon is the environment you’re in. Of course, you can take a weekend and wall yourself up in an office and work on something all weekend. But at a hackathon, you’re surrounded by professionals from all backgrounds that really help you to accelerate not just your learning, but ability to build things,” explains Stephanie. A hackathon applies the pressure to not only build something functional in 48 hours, but to create something that is actually useful to end users, a component that’s often left out in normal university coursework.
10. ArchHacks has a great social media presence, delivering the most up-to-date information. ArchHacks’ marketing specialist, Marni, keeps the Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds flowing. The ArchHacks website is also a great source of information with frequently updated FAQs based on emailed questions.
You don’t have to be a student to participate in ArchHacks in some form. For any professionals in the area, there are some great sponsorship and mentorship opportunities available.
Are you a student in the Rochester, Minneapolis/St. Paul, or Winona area interested in attending ArchHacks? Contact Jamie Sundsbak at email@example.com. We are looking to charter a bus to transport students from the area down to St. Louis, free of charge to students.