K-State hosts fifth annual Hack K-State to promote creativity in programming

Hack K-State is a 36-hour event to encourage creativity and practicality in programming. This year's event begins Nov. 8. (Archive photo by McKenzie Spresser | Collegian Media Group)

Inventors, mark your calendars — the fifth annual Hack K-State event will be this Friday.

Hack K-State is one of the largest hackathons in the region and is a unique event open to high school, undergraduate and graduate students across the nation.

The Hack K-State website describes a hackathon as “an invention/innovation competition for technology.” Many hackathons are an all day event, but Hack K-State is a 36-hour long experience.

“They start Friday evening, have opening ceremonies, and they will start creating, developing, programming. They will go non-stop until Sunday morning,” said Josh Weese, the program’s faculty adviser and teaching assistant professor of computer science.

There were 199 participants in Hack K-State last year. This year, there are over 200 participants from 40 universities and 22 high schools, Weese said. The number of participating high schoolers increased this year.

“We’ve had a really great experience getting high schoolers involved across the state, and now we get people from neighboring states,” Weese said. “It’s a really great recruitment event and gives them a taste of a college event.

“It’s really a unique environment where we get a variety of students coming in for the same week and the same place creating cool things just for the fun of it. It’s quite unlike school projects,” Weese continued. “You come in with an idea, but you haven’t done anything yet. What can you invent in a weekend? We have people from all over campus come in, which really creates a diverse team.”

Weese noted the winners aren’t all computer scientists. It includes marketing and people being artistic. It’s also about feasibility, Weese said, including contributing to society.

Hack K-State is a departmental student organization within the Department of Computer Science. The organization works year-round to make the event possible.

“It’s a ton of logistics, planning, budgeting and people-wrangling,” Weese said.

It is also one of the largest student-run events on campus. Nathan McClain, senior in computer science, is the lead organizer for the 2019 event. In addition to organizing the event for two years, McClain participated for two years.

“My favorite part about Hack K-State is getting to see the innovative ideas that participants come up with and work on throughout the event,” McClain said.

Previous projects have included an a program that mimics an Etch A Sketch, where users upload an image and motors draw the image, and a game of Guitar Hero played via image processing instead of the guitar.

Projects can also be fundamentally useful, like Amazon Alexa skills that keep track of school grades for teachers and parents.

“I really enjoy creating the positive and welcoming environment that allow our participants to be creative,” McClain said.

Participants from all majors, universities, high schools and levels of experience are welcome.

“No experience is required as we provide mentors throughout the weekend that can help assist in projects if you get stuck,” McClain said. “Students from any major can come together and create an awesome project.”

Registration and volunteer sign-up is still open. The event starts Friday in the Business Administration Building.