Hackers set to converge on Queen’s University and Kingston

Hackers set to converge on Queen’s University and Kingston

Queen’s University principal Daniel Woolf tests a product at QHack 2017 in Kingston. (Supplied Photo)

Supplied Photo / Steph Crosier/Kingston Whig-Standard

More than 500 hackers will be converging on Queen’s University in February for their annual hackathon. The event forces teams of programmers to develop a new product in just 36 hours.

“It’s basically a marathon,” Vinith Suriyakumar, chair of the QHacks 2019 event, said. “We have dedicated sleeping rooms with yoga mats, but it’s up to the teams and the students themselves [to decide if or when they want to sleep].”

The QHacks event will be held on the Feb. 1-3 weekend on the Queen’s campus. Industry experts at the event will mentor and judge the projects presented by the hackers. The hackers are teams of four that will have come from all over North America.

Suriyakumar is studying biomedical computing at Queen’s and participated in the event in 2017. He said hackathons present various opportunities for the programmers, sometimes even a job.

“Our sponsors often say it is a great opportunity for them to engage with students and to find new graduates and new interns to hire,” Suriyakumar said. “These are the students who are so passionate about technology, so passionate to learn and to build things and those are the types of students that a lot of these companies are looking for when it comes to hiring software engineers, when it comes to hiring project mangers.”

Speaking at the event will be Snap Inc.’s vice-president of product, Jacob Andreou, a Queen’s grad, and Microsoft’s Kaheer Suleman, who attended the University of Waterloo and founded Maluuba Inc. Acquired by Microsoft in 2017, Maluuba focuses on artificial intelligence and language understanding.

Other speakers and mentors include engineers from Google, Microsoft, Shopify and RBC.

“[Hosting the speakers] gives the hackers the opportunity to engage with people who are in the industry right now, to ask questions and to really learn from the experiences from all these different individuals,” Suriyakumar said. “We really appreciate them coming.”

Projects are both brainstormed before the event and developed on the fly, Suriyakumar said. Last year’s winning project was a piece of hardware and web application that could detect the level of garbage in a bin. Another focused on mental health. It provided resources and could detect emotion from a person’s writing.

Anyone is welcome to stop by the event and watch the hackers in action. Applications are still open for programmers to enter. To apply or to learn more about the event, go online to www.qhacks.io.

Suriyakumar said hackathons are becoming more and more popular, especially in Canada. Many major universities in the country host their own every year.

“There’s this common goal of really wanting to build this Canadian tech community and really wanting to show the great talent that Canadian students have and the passion they have for the tech industry,” Suriyakumar said.

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