A <\br> From Reality – Hack the North

North America’s top Hackathon leveled up on the weekend of September 15th, as one thousand student coders from across the globe converged at the University of Waterloo in the spirit of technological exploration and ingenuity. The internationally recognized competition which began in 2014 has since amassed a multitude of exceptional design projects, developed by diversely skilled student teams. This year was no exception. Hack the North 2017 raised the bar in terms of conference organization, opportunity, and project quality. I had the honour of attending the event myself, and thus got a front row seat to the varieties of workshops, speakers, and free food available. Let me tell you about my weekend! Don’t worry, I won’t… byte?
Hack the North kicked off with a special opening speech from our very own Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. He spoke of Canada as home to those with a desire to innovate, and provided insight on his passion in the field of technology. Following suit was a livestreamed talk between CEO Balaji Srinivasan and General Partner of the 1517 Fund Michael Gibson, who spoke of Balaji’s experiences in the field and provided an expert’s point of view on the importance of computer science and statistics knowledge in the modern world.
And then we were off. Over the span of thirty six hours, projects of all shapes and sizes were built from scratch. From augmented reality applications and facial recognition robots, to note summarizers and garbage sorters, the Waterloo campus was riddled with programs and hardware, projected from the minds of student inventors from all walks of life. Within this time far too many cups of coffee were drank, and far too many hours were spent lingering at the claw machine in desperate hope of attaining a free Raspberry Pi. All the while, the floors of E5 remained densely populated with hard-working youth. But students were not only competing for a grand prize – representatives from various sponsors set up booths at the hackathon, prospecting for talented coders who are looking for co-op jobs and internships. These potential employers also provided prizes to groups who completed their challenges most effectively, the challenges in this case being creatively implementing their API or accomplishing a task prevalent to their company. It was a great networking opportunity for students, filled with impromptu interviews, information gathering, workshops, and free swag.
After all of the judging, the showcasing, and the championships, one thing was for certain: this was not just a hackathon of regular caliber. Hack the North was an absolutely incredible experience that left students hungering for more. It was a momentary sanctuary for those who wanted to explore the world of technology alongside other keen programmers. It was a space where friends were made and the dedication of peers was acknowledged. Hack the North, and hackathons in general, are something everyone should try to apply to – it’s a once in a lifetime experience that only comes along every few… iterations or so (ha… syntax joke).

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