Student Innovators in Computer Applications Converge at Yale's First-ever “Hackathon”

At the recent inauguration of Yale University’s first new President in two decades, the call for a greater emphasis on entrepreneurship did not go unnoticed.  This weekend, the first annual “Y-Hack” will put an estimated 1,200 innovative, primarily computer science and engineering, students and cutting edge industry minds together for an intense 24-hour effort to see what computer programs might develop – or, more literally, be developed.

Y-Hack is a “national hackathon” hosted by and at Yale University. A hackathon is an event in which computer programmers y hackand others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects.

A key goal this weekend is to bring together students and entrepreneurs with experienced industrial innovators, to stimulate creativity and creation.  Anyone currently enrolled in a bachelor's program – at any college in the country – has been eligible for Y-Hack with confirmed registration.  Registration, according to the program’s website, is now full.

Developing Worldwide Impactcomputer characters

“With Y-Hack, thousands of students across the country have come to see Yale as an innovator in the technology, computer science, and engineering fields, and we're attempting to push us further onto the world stage,”  explained organizer Mike Wu, a Yale student. “We want to make sure that Yale students are actively contributing positive impact to the world by sharing their talents, creating value, and giving back to the community.”

Participants will be descending on Yale not only from throughout the New Haven campus, but from campuses all nationwide, from public and private schools, as well as from Canada and England.  Among the more than 70 colleges represented among the participants are students who attend Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Dartmouth, Brown, UMass, RPI and, more locally, Connecticut College.

The who’s who of technology companies taking part in one way or another – more than two dozen – includes locally-based Prometheus Research, as well as well-known names including Redhat, Intel, Google, Dropbox, and Bloomberg.  The top sponsors are Akamai, Amazon, Microsoft and Goldman Sachs. Connecticut Innovations, the state’s quasi-public agency that financially supports in-state start-ups, will also be on hand.

In looking ahead to the student innovation that may result, Wu said “We challenge them to push each other and make the best products they can. It's rare to have so many intelligent and motivated minds from both the industrial and educational worlds together in one place with no other goal than to make something cool. It's a pretty powerful atmosphere.”

Teams of four are encouraged; some formed during advance registration, others will be formed on the spot.  Expert judges will ultimately assess presentations by the top 15 teams, based on criteria that include innovation, technical talent, the pitch and popularity, providing the students with meaningful and instructive feedback.

24 Hour Intensity

It all beings mid-afternoon Friday (Nov. 8) with displays set up by the corporate sponsors alongside student registration. Strict credential reviews will take place, and necessary release forms signed.   Friday evening, the sponsor companies will provide technology briefings to the students.  Then the action begins in earnest.

For 24 hours, from 6 PM Friday to 6 PM Saturday, participating students will have a single focus – development of their computer applications.   There will be meals and snacks available, and some diversionary activities in need of a short break, but the intense activity will be exclusively on innovation and development. Little sleep is anticipated.  A closing dinner, keynote address, presentations, judging and awards ceremony will be held on the Yale campus beginning at 6 PM Saturday.

New Haven-based Prometheus Research, an integrated data management services provider, announced this week that co-founder Clark Evans will be one of six judges for the inaugural Yale Hackathon (Y-Hack). Evans will evaluate student projects based on the four criteria and also award a separate, "Best use of HTSQL," prize to onprometheuse talented entrant. HTSQL is a Prometheus product.

"Our developers, analysts, and clients think HTSQL is transformative,” Evans said. “It empowers them to securely interact with relational data over the Web in ways they previously wouldn't even attempt. So, it will be really fun to see how the students adapt it to their own novel applications."

There will also be a good amount of free stuff for participants, courtesy of the corporate sponsors.  As Wu points out, in addition to the opportunity to innovate with like-minded, top-caliber student and professional application innovators, “swag is what makes Hackathon enticing.”    The top prizes include thousands of dollars in cash, along with all-expense paid trips to Microsoft and Amazon to present winning “hacks” to company engineers, and there will be raffles of tablets, phones, and other devices throughout the event.