T9Hacks brings women together for 24 hours of hacking

Contact CU Independent News Staff Writer Ayako Itoi at ayako.itoi@colorado.edu.

At 2 a.m. in the Roser ATLAS Building on the University of Colorado’s campus, the only sounds were typing and occasional talking as participants of the T9Hacks 24-hour hackathon focused on their screens. Their faces, lit up by blue screens, displayed their dedication.

T9Hacks, CU’s inaugural 24-­hour women’s hackathon, was held on Feb. 20 and ­21. It was the first women’s hackathon at the university, and it aimed to provide female students with an inclusive hackerspace. The event welcomed all university students to participate, with particular emphasis on the inclusion of those who self-identify as female.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, women make up only 18 percent of computer science majors in undergraduate programs in the United States based on 2011 numbers. T9Hacks works to counteract this lack of women in the tech world.

Women constituted 66 percent of participants last week at CU. Female participants learned from each other and developed creative projects. The high female participation rate created a welcoming atmosphere for T9Hacks’ target demographic and encouraged every participant to get involved in hacking. Some teams were made up entirely of women.

“It’s very interesting because I’ve never been in a team that’s all women,” said Vi Nguyen, a marketing major at CU. “My experience [would] definitely change in a group of males.”

In order to encourage inclusiveness, T9Hacks didn’t require hackers to form teams ahead of the event. Students from different majors came to learn what kind of projects they could work on by interacting with other participants. This flexibility brought together participants possessing different skill sets. They created websites, applications and other creations that fit into this year’s theme of “helping the community.” One group visualized sound with its application, while another group used brainwave-readers to check the emotional status of a person during meditation.

“It’s open-ended,” participant Dhwani Khatter said. “You don’t know what you’re really doing, so you have a lot of freedom here.”

In the final presentation, participants explained their projects with smiles and pride on their faces. The event hall was filled with people encouraging and congratulating each other.

“It was fun. It’s nice to see how much got done in 24 hours,” participant Ariel Riggan said. “All these websites are pretty professional. There’s so many things to play with.”

To differentiate itself from other hackathons, T9Hacks doesn’t give special importance to a single winner. In a closing ceremony, one team got the purple prize for incorporating the event color into their project, while team OculacyShark won the Funniest Domain Name prize. Participants erupted in applause and cheers for the event, bringing it to a close on a positive note.

“There’s a lot of people who have never been to a hackathon before, and we have many people who are not computer science majors here,” T9Hacks coordinator Brittany Koz said. “They’re building something they’ve never done before. That’s exactly what I wanna see.”

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