Flyer Theme from DivHacks 2023 hackathon, “Hack to the Future” (September 23-24, 2023)

By: Anita Raj (SEAS ‘27)

Interested in engaging with the hacker community at Columbia, and, more specifically, a diverse and inclusive one that welcomes beginner programmers? Read on to learn more about DivHacks, Columbia WiCS’s annual hackathon that usually occurs in the fall semester at the end of September. DivHacks is open to undergraduate students, and Columbia students—especially underclassmen interested in technology—are highly encouraged to apply and participate.

Every year, DivHacks announces a theme. For example, last year’s theme was “Hack to the Future,” focused on technology on the frontiers of innovation, like AI, ML, AR/VR, etc. Hackers can then choose a track and application to tailor their projects to.

A track is a type of emerging technology of the future. These technologies are in development and take multiple industries by storm, but there are also public, free, and easily accessible versions for users like hackers. Because these technologies have broad applications, hackers narrow down the scope of how the technology can be implemented in their projects by making the technology address a specific issue their project aims to solve. The tracks DivHacks offered last year were AI/ML, AR/VR, web development, Web-3, and mobile development.

An application is the industry or space of importance in society where a track is to be applied. Again, applications are broad, and it is the hacker’s responsibility to choose an application and address a specific problem in this application. The tracks DivHacks offered last year were education, diversity, healthcare, and green-tech/environment. Note that, year by year, the themes, tracks, and applications may change, but DivHacks will announce them well before the hackathon date so you have time to brainstorm ideas!

DivHacks is the perfect hackathon to begin your hacker journey, as it is beginner-friendly. Below are some quick tips we have for those looking to participate in DivHacks and other hackathons!

  1. Revise skills you may need for the hackathon. This doesn’t mean learning to program in a new language; rather, touch up on the design, front-end, and back-end skills you already have. Once you get to the hackathon, treat it as a space where you can rapidly learn about new technology from mentors and your teammates.
  2. Try to form teams before you get to the hackathon! While DivHacks always facilitates team-forming at the beginning of the hackathon, it can be very helpful to reach out to other hackers planning to attend in advance of DivHacks. This way, you have time to create a well-rounded team of skill sets and can bounce ideas off each other for your project.
  3. Check the schedule! Take advantage of the track workshops being offered so you can learn from mentors and upperclassmen about efficient ways to implement new technology in your projects to earn you more points with judges and, more importantly, increase your knowledge base. We also have fun events, like ramen challenges and spa nights, for when you need a break from hacking!

We look forward to seeing you join the hacking!


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