By: Etai Shuchatowitz  | 

First Ever #YUHack A Rousing Success

If you walked into the Heights Lounge at some point on March 28th and 29th and were greeted with a room full of tired, frustrated and excited people, you were witnessing YU’s first ever Hackathon. The event, known as #YUHack, was promoted to be an event for “students from all over the Tri-State area to come together in Yeshiva University's Heights Lounge to create a cool hack, app or website, all within 24 hours,” according to its marketing campaign. In the end, #YUHack hosted over seventy participants from many universities like NYU, Columbia, and Cooper Union.

"Despite my lack of coding experience, the Hackathon provided a great opportunity to work on my skills along with friends,” said Joshua Blau (YC ‘17). “Even if we hadn't been able to shell out a working project, it would still have been very rewarding, as well as buckets of fun."

The event worked as follows: Beginning at 9:00 PM on March 28th, students gathered in the Heights Lounge and began breaking off into teams. They had 24 hours to complete, from scratch, a project of their choosing. After 24 hours, each team presented its project to a panel of accomplished programmers who judged based on originality, presentation, and usability. The top teams received prizes such as expensive watches and drones.

Things didn’t get into full swing until a little bit later than the official start time. “The biggest challenge was just getting started. We had no idea where to begin.” said Yossi Hoffman (YC ‘17). Some people pulled through and stayed up the whole night, while others went home relatively early at one or two in the morning. Either way, the Heights Lounge closed at 2:00 AM and the event moved into the Morgenstern Lounge for the subsequent four hours before the Heights Lounge reopened.

The road to #YUHack was not necessarily an easy one. As student organizer Marcos Sasson (YC ‘15) said, “The biggest challenge putting this event together was dealing with YU's administration. The reason was the uniqueness of this kind of event. We had many meetings with the Office of Student Life...and even after all the meetings, things were still popping up that needed to be discussed.” Despite any difficulties he faced, he said he “couldn’t be happier with the results.”

Throughout the day people came and went as teams had their ups and downs. Mentors roamed the Heights Lounge always ready to help when a team inevitably struggled. No matter what happened, each team had to be ready to present something to the judges by the 7:00 PM deadline. As the final hours quickly approached, teams struggled to get a working project ready as Murphy’s law plagued some teams in the closing moments. However, in the end, most teams opted to present at least a prototype of their project.

When asked for his favorite part of the event, Hoffman said, “After spending at least 10 hours coding, it was the best feeling to finally see our program running close to how we had envisioned.”

Teams got up one by one and showed off what they had done in 24 hours. Projects spanned from a 3-D body scanning website to a competitor for YUConnects to a birthday robot, which actually spit confetti and played Happy Birthday . Even though no project was entirely complete, every presentation showed the promise of an interesting idea, and illustrated the impressive feats that a few motivated individuals can produce in such a short period of time.

The winning team presented Favr, a website for trading and cashing in favors, like picking up laundry or printing out a paper. The website, built by a team of five YC and Stern students, looked and ran smoothly during its presentation, and showed tremendous potential of what it could become.

Spending 24 hours doing any single task can be exhausting. It’s even harder to work for 24 hours straight on creating something that requires technical and creative ingenuity. Factor in the team element and potential for the projects to hit major hurdles, it’s a miracle things went so well. Hoffman concluded his comments on the event by saying, “I loved working with my team. We all worked so well together and each one of us brought a different skill to the table to make something cool.” He echoed the prevailing sentiment when he said, “I’m already starting to think of ideas for what I want to do at next year’s Hackathon.”