My favorite thing about programming is learning by doing it. I’m not one of those people that enjoys sitting in lectures or understanding theory. I love creating things, and hackathons are a great way to bring those aspects together. The idea is that you make something with a specific goal. Sometimes, you use a specific language; sometimes, you use anything you want. You don’t even have to know how to use one, because people can teach you there. The point is to make something cool!
One of the biggest hackathons that started on campus last year is the iOS App Challenge, hosted by Apple (yes, that Apple), along with the Computer Science Community (CSC) and the Society of Software Engineers (SSE). Teams of three, usually at least a developer and a designer, come together to make an iOS app and use a “secret” API (application programming interface), so that nobody can make anything beforehand. If you don’t know Objective-C, Apple developers offer a basic crash course the day before with tons of tutorials provided by the CSC and the SSE. It’s great for those that want to get a head start on working on iOS apps or learning Objective-C and even better for those that want to leave an impression on Apple.
This year, it was held during the first week of classes, giving students ample time to dedicate most of their five days to development. The apps were presented to an audience of students and a panel of judges, esteemed members of the RIT Computing community.
Sean Strout, a Computing Science Professor: https://www.cs.rit.edu/people/faculty/sps
Andy Phelps, Director of MAGIC and former Director of Interactive Games and Media: http://igm.rit.edu/~andy/index.html
Derek Erdmann, President of the Society of Software Engineers: http://sse.se.rit.edu/
Jen Lamere, a First-Year Software Engineer: http://www.rit.edu/news/story.php?id=50507
Awesome prizes were offered to the top two apps, judged by innovation and complexity, and the audience choice app: http://ritios.challengepost.com/. Yes, that says three 256 GB MacBook Airs (it’s Apple). They even raffled off some cool swag to the audience. While RIT’s free shirts are pretty great, nothing compares to winning an Apple AirPlay or a limited edition Apple hoodie (you can’t even buy those!).
Overall, it’s really just a great opportunity to get your feet wet in some iOS development, or make something insanely awesome if you already have the programming chops. You can find the winners and submissions from this year’s challenge here: http://ritios.challengepost.com/submissions.