Students hack engineering challenge

From staff reports

What better way to spend a Saturday than sitting behind a glowing computer screen?

The Washington State University student chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is hosting its first annual “Hardware Hackathon” for 24 hours at Dana Hall on Nov. 14.

Diligent Inc. is sponsoring the Hackathon, providing microcontrollers and other electrical equipment and The Frank Innovation Zone, which is allowing the use of its equipment and materials such as the woodshop, metal shop, 3D printers and laser cutter, said Kaitlyn Franz, president of IEEE

IEEE is planning the event and the WSU Robotics Club and the RoboSub Club are providing their input and helping with planning and volunteers.

The Hackathon isn’t actually about hacking in the sense that many people might think. It is not about hacking into computers for malicious reasons, but rather hacking with the goal of creating something, RoboSub member Connor Henning said.

According to NC State University, “Hackers are people who try to gain unauthorized access to your computer. This is normally done through some backdoor program installed on your machine.”

The day-long Hardware Hackathon is an event where groups of three to five undergraduate and graduate students in Pullman compete in a 24-hour challenge of collaborating and learning with others. The groups come together and collaborate to create new hardware.

There will be mentors present to help the groups, as well as free food and drinks for sustenance.

Franz got the idea for the IEEE to host their own hackathon when she attended one last year and saw students had to bring their own hardware and supplies for creating hardware.

“It was focused more on the software side and had only judges who were computer science professionals, and did not have any electrical engineering judges,” Franz said.

The goal is bringing people in this field together and having them compete against each other and gain new skills and insight.

It will provide students with the opportunity to put to use the skills they are learning in class.

“It will also give engineering students a chance to work with students in fields other than their own and branch out,” Franz said. “This isn’t really something that is done in our field so it is a great opportunity to learn.”

At the end, the participants will be judged on their presentation, design and creativity. There will be a first, second and third-place prize at the end of the competition as well as a prize for best ‘newbie’ performance by a group of freshmen.

Pre-assembled or pre-programmed projects are not allowed and will result in disqualification.

Reporting by Corinna Thornton