Writer’s note: I only been to one hackathon so far and it is not even the one where you must pull allnighters. I may have no right to say anything about hackathons nor WEC, but this could be useful for students doing these competitions for the first time. I would mainly go over the design challenge as this is the one I have done, so I won’t have as much details in consulting and software competitions. If I am wrong with these facts, please email Iron Warrior.
The Waterloo Engineering Competition (also known as WEC) is a 2-day long competition in both the Fall and Spring terms, hosted by EngSoc. Teams of 2 to 4 are given 6 hours to build, code, or research in order to solve a specific problem based on the nature of the sub competitions. The 4 competitions held by WEC are the junior/senior design, consulting, and software. Winners of each category get a cash prize and can advance to the Ontario Engineering Competition. However, all participants and volunteers are provided free food during the competition- but don’t eat while you are trying to solder a wire to your motor!
It’s hard to prep for WEC because the design challenges change each time the competition rolls around. However, senior design seems to love using Arduinos in their competitions, so that’s probably a good thing to look over before the competition. Junior design seems to not include Arduinos as part of the design (but it may vary), but it is only for students in terms 2A and below. Consulting would be one that is more research heavy, as it is a competition to provide a solution through a pitch. Software design would be more into like regular hackathons, but with only 6 hours to write your code. WEC seemed to be the competition that fills in the niche of the hackathon-like environment but with more design and research aspects implemented into it.
Also, in some previous competitions, no one completed the objectives of the design challenge, so it is okay to not have a perfect (or functioning) prototype, research project, or demo when you present in front of the judges. Don’t worry about making it perfect, as the design challenge is meant to be difficult (it doesn’t mean you should not try however). Another portion of the competition is the presentation, which can affect your score as well.
In addition, winning teams will also win a monetary prize, which can be useful for your textbooks – or side project expenses. Even if you don’t win, you still get some free food and a lot of experience with designing, research, coding, or design pitching -and you can always improve for the next competition!
However, the one disadvantage of WEC is that you need to have a group beforehand in order to compete in the competition. It would be hard if you don’t know people interested, but I hope this issue gets addressed in some way for students interested in doing the competition but has no one to work with.