What happens when you give Mudders 12 hours, tons of hardware, and free food? Insanely cool projects of course. From October 24th to 25th, Harvey Mudd hosted MuddHacks, the first hardware hackathon at the Claremont Colleges. Over 110 students, including 24 teams of up to 4 individuals, attended the 12-hour event. Each team was given the option of purchasing up to $50 of hardware, in addition to the general hardware provided at the hackathon. In addition, students had access to the Shanahan Center, as well as the machine shop and supply room.
Though many teams had prior experience with hardware, MuddHacks was also geared towards beginners. Leading up to the hackathon, a Hack Week was held for anyone interested in learning more about hardware hacking. Workshops included how to use arduinos and motors, hacking a microwave, and experimenting with the hardware available at the hackathon. This was a great opportunity for students of all technical backgrounds, and was well attended on each day it was held.
The hackathon itself began at 7pm that Friday, where teams were lined up in front of the Shanahan Center for registration. After the opening ceremony, participants dispersed throughout the Shanahan to start their projects. Excitement was in the air as students worked to make their ideas come to life, making multiple runs to the machine shop, supply room, and food supply, naturally. The third floor of the Shanahan was especially exciting, with team members taking notes on chalkboards, coding away, and most importantly, helping each other. In fact, the atmosphere was highly collaborative, with teams helping other teams. MuddHacks also had a mentor program, where experienced individuals signed up to help teams throughout the night.
As the sun finally peaked over the horizon, teams reconvened on the third-floor patio to receive shirts and information about judging. The four judges were all Mudd engineering professors: Prof. Kash Gokli, Prof. Qinmin Yang, Prof. Matthew Spencer, and Prof. Josef Spiut. Splitting into teams of two, the professors walked around to each team to evaluate their projects. Students also walked around to see what their peers had hacked during the night.
To conclude the hackathon, the judges presented awards to teams with the highest scores. First place was awarded to a team that designed a leap motion controlled helicopter (Erin Paeng, Shaan Gareeb, Cherie Ho), second place to a breathalyzer that opened a box (Paul Jolly, Eddie Gonzales, Adam Schiller, Kunal Menda), and third place to a ping-pong ball launcher (Alex Goldstein, Jacob Rosalsky, Alex Trudeau, Jane Wu). Honorable mentions were also presented a workout button (Max Waugaman, Sean O’Keeffe), a party button (Zach Vickland, Matt Espy, Demetri Monovoukas, Vanessa Ronan), a plasma speaker (Marc Finzi, Aaron Wang, Reed Haubenstock, Sam Dietrich), and a parallel-parking robot (Varsha Kishore, Richard Liu, Daipeng Yang).
All in all, the event was a huge success, especially for organizers Ben Chasnov, Akhil Bagaria, and Apoorva Sharma. The team had thought about the idea of a hardware hackathon since this past spring, and put together MuddHacks just a few months before it happened. The motivation for such an event was clear, since there has never been a hackathon focused on hardware at the 5C’s before. Chasnov remarks, “A lot of my friends always say ‘I wish I had time to build this’, but they are so busy or have so much work.” Holding a hackathon provides the perfect solution, since there’s a “good atmosphere and a lot of energy packed into a short amount of time”, giving participants the chance to complete a project they’ve had in the back of their minds. For Sharma, the most memorable aspect of MuddHacks was seeing the amazing energy of participants. He states, ”I really enjoyed the atmosphere throughout the night. The third floor of the Shanahan was one big community, and everyone was having fun.” All three organizers hope that MuddHacks will become a regular event at the 5C’s, and plan to hold another hackathon either in the spring or next year.