An Interview with Hack@Brown Co-Directors Sharon Lo ’16 and Atty Eleti ’17



This upcoming weekend, 350 would-be hackers — designers, coders, and those with nothing more than an idea — will descend on Sayles and Wilson Hall for over 30 hours of lectures, activities, meals, and of course, hacking. It’s the second annual Hack@Brown, and this year’s hackathon with a Brown flavor promises to be even more exciting than its predecessor. Blog sat down with the organizers — Sharon Lo ’16 and Athyuttam (Atty) Eleti ’17 — to ask some questions about what will make this year’s Hack@Brown particularly special.

First off, this is the second annual Hack@Brown. What are the ways we can expect this year’s Hack@Brown to differ from last year’s?

Sharon: “At Hack@Brown, a lot of people think of hackathons as super intense, but it’s about having the confidence to commit to your idea. For example, this year we have an ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’ workshop. Overall, we’re expecting the hackathon to be 350 students from about 70 different schools across the US, Mexico and Canada – a 25% increase from last year. We also have about 50 mentors to help students. It’s a lot about making the unfamiliar familiar to students.”

Atty: “Hack@Brown can be pretty intimidating for people because they think of hacking as green screens, drinking Red Bull, and eating pizza. But learning is the core of the Hackathon. Maybe you’ve never coded before; Hack@Brown is the opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and build something new. Participant-wise, we’re expecting about 40% female attendance this year. 60% of all attendees are also first-time hackers. Plus it’s now a year-long thing; we’re also doing a workshop every two weeks.”

Having already gotten some experience with the first Hack@Brown, were there any unexpected challenges in organizing this year’s event?

Atty: “The biggest challenge is that Hack@Brown is now a year-long endeavor. Now we have the workshops – and what we’re really pushing for this year is use of things called APIs.”

Sharon: “What an API does is open up this data in machine-readable form. For example, this week we just finished an API for dining services; so for example if a student needs an app that uses Ratty data, it will be machine-readable. We’re also trying to make it a year-long event.”

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