On February 3, over 400 hackers will arrive at Dunning Hall for the opening ceremonies of Queen’s second annual QHacks competitive hackathon. The event lasts until Sunday, when an exposition of the final products and prototypes will be judged at Ellis Hall.
Groups from across the continent, including Waterloo, Toronto and even some from Texas and Florida, will be congregating on the Queen’s campus for the 36-hour challenge. There, teams of programmers work together to design and put together tech projects to be judged by industry experts.
The QHacks group on campus was founded last year by a group of students who wanted to place a focus on talent coming from the Queen’s engineering and computer science faculties.
The aim has grown in their second year of inception to broaden their scope on Kingston as a whole and establish the city as one of Canada’s up-and-coming technology hubs. Since last year’s inaugural event, participation in the hackathon has doubled to around 400 ‘hackers’, but the task of making Kingston an attractive destination for tech companies hasn’t been easy.
In the early stages, the team told The Journal, getting mentors, sponsors and judges to trek out to Kingston proved to be difficult. Poor airport access and the remote nature of Kingston compared to other tech centres made it difficult for interested individuals to commit to attending, said co-founder Anuj Arora, ArtSci ’17.
Despite some struggles, QHacks secured 50 industry representatives for this year’s event, travelling from as far as Google’s Silicon Valley office. Companies in attendance include Movember, TD, Telus, Flip, Google, Microsoft and RBC.
The event is free of charge for participants. Funding comes from a variety of sponsors, including Sodexo, Queen’s Hospitality Service and the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre. They’re even reimbursing participants’ travelling costs to foster a dynamic and cross-continental range of talent. The team believes the inexpensive opportunity is a great way for beginner coders to get involved, while remaining risk-free.
“It’s all about learning and development,” said Arora, adding that the QHacks experience is designed to help programmers develop their skill-sets.
During the tournament, tutorials and workshops will help hackers fine-tune their skills. There will also be floating mentors, sourced from different industries, to aid participants in learning new technologies.
“I learnt and built my skills as the weekend went on,” Nicole Fitzgerald, ArtSci ’18, said of last year’s event. Fitzgerald is one of this year’s co-chairs, picking up from where some of the founding members left off.
QHacks is registered with the Major-League Hacking organization, a body that oversees all North American Hackathons. The League fosters hackathon participation across the continent and creates an intercollegiate network between hackers across Canada and the United States.
This year, QHacks has participants representing schools like Concordia, Waterloo, MIT and Cornell.
While judges decide first-to-third place winners, some of the companies in attendance will hold their own mini-competitions for participants. TD’s mini-challenge will be focused on sustainable technology and Movember is looking to celebrate the best mental health hack.
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