Coding “upside down”: LancerHacks VI

by Rohan Sinha (’23) and Katherine Winton (’25) | March 10, 2023

Photography by Paige Allen (’23)

On February 11, Saint Francis welcomed around 120 students to participate in LancerHacks VI, the sixth annual 12-hour hackathon hosted by the Programming Club. The coding competition welcomed students of all programming backgrounds to collaborate on projects. With the theme “Upside Down,” LancerHacks VI encouraged participants to redefine an existing problem or make use of an existing solution in a novel way. With this idea in mind, participants engaged in themed activities and produced unique projects showing a wide range of interests and skills.

During the opening ceremony, President Jason Curtis welcomed students to the Eggers Innovation Center to celebrate community, hospitality, and inclusion—themes which would echo through the day. Hospitality was especially noticeable through the multitude of students coming to the hackathon not only from Saint Francis but also from local middle and high schools, giving students an opportunity to work with people they had never met before.

Although students came to LancerHacks to code, the organizers implemented several other activities to keep hackers determined and engaged. Organizers Nitish Gourishetty (’23) and Aarush Kachhawa (’23) led an “Upside Down” skills challenge. Gourishetty described the activity as an “obstacle course with dizzy goggles,” seeking to make the day’s theme concrete. Organizer Smriti Vijay (’25) also led an escape room activity during the afternoon.

In addition to the chance to collaborate on coding projects, participants had the unique opportunity to listen to talks given by tech experts. In the morning, Sophia Sun, a product manager at Microsoft, spoke to students about how she became interested in computer science, using examples from her high school and college experiences to highlight the wide range of programming experience among developers. 

Later in the day, students crowded together at the Gathering Stairs in the Eggers Innovation Center to listen as Intel engineers Dr. Lonna Edwards, Ms. Roshni Venkatesan Suresh, and Ms. Arelys Navarro discussed the importance of inclusion in STEM fields and shared how their unique interests and careers in engineering developed. In the afternoon, Electriphi CEO Muffi Ghadiali gave students a talk about how to prepare for a career in engineering or computer science.

Lead organizer Ruhi Yusuf (’24) noted the importance of these guest talks in offering participants with practical knowledge applicable beyond the day’s hackathon: “While hackathons may feel like a race to submit projects by the deadline, we also hope that our hackathon allows students to make connections with those in the industry and those new to coding with insight into what the industry looks like. We seek to give resources, opportunities, and connections that are valuable beyond hackathon day.”

Even on the hacking day, experts like Ghadiali inspired participants to turn Saint Francis upside down with their programming projects. From projects reimagining sites like ChatGPT, Ticketmaster, or Wordle, to projects impacting the world through discussions of medical safety and the ethics of corporations, students worked tirelessly the entire day to produce works that impressed both judges and organizers.

Kachhawa particularly noted the collaborative spirit of mentorship as participants tested new technologies: “It is inspiring to see mentors guiding participants to make use of existing technologies and APIs [Application Programming Interface] in unique ways but also to develop projects with technologies they’ve never expected to use before.”

With student projects complete, the night closed with the awards ceremony, where groups received awards for overall top three, best themed, best all-girls, best middle school, and more. This ceremony showcased a wide variety of student projects, reinforcing the day’s success in turning Saint Francis upside down.

Categories: News

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