SD Hacks: An Opportunity for Students to Engage Outside the Classroom

Nov 19, 2018
SDHacks Snapshots
Attendees at the 2018 SD Hacks' CSE Alumni Reception

Left: Albert P. Pisano, Professor and Dean of the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. Right: Dean Tullsen, Professor and Chair of the UC San Diego Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) Department.


Last month, the winning team at the 2018 SD Hacks on UC San Diego campus brainstormed and developed a project set to break language barriers in Computer Science, all in the time constraint of a day and a half.

750 students checked-in at the 2018 SD Hacks, an intercollegiate hackathon where hackers from across the world come together to create innovative solutions to current issues in 36 hours. Not only do the students collaborate to create projects, but they also have opportunities to learn from, and work with, company mentors. 525 of the student attendees this year were from UC San Diego. In total, 38 unique schools were represented.


“A hackathon provides one of the best opportunities to connect students with students, as well as students and industry,” said David Ding, chairperson of SD Hacks 2018. “It promotes a sense of teamwork and collaboration that cannot be emulated in a classroom environment.”

The projects were judged on their complexity and importance for the community, their difficulty, user experience and team collaboration.

Of these undergraduate hackers, a team named PolyGlot from the University of Toronto won the grand prize for their project, which aimed to combat linguistic inequities in programming and development.

The team was inspired by the fact that the majority of programming languages are written in English. The practice can create language barriers in programming for non-English speakers.

PolyGlot allows developers to write JavaScript code in Mandarin, French and Spanish by translating keywords in these languages to English and running their JavaScript as if it were an English Script, increasing linguistic diversity in Computer Science.

“With world class mentors and company API's available, students have to quickly study these programs and apply them during the event on the spot,” Ding said. “This intensity can only be found at a hackathon, and it works because of the support system.”

2018 also marked the second year that the CSE Alumni Advisory Board hosted the CSE Alumni Reception at SD Hacks, an event attended by CSE alumni, faculty and staff. Attendees enjoyed appetizers and beverages while watching the excitement from the level above as students poured into the 2018 SD Hacks event.  Al Pisano, Jacobs School of Engineering Dean; Dean Tullsen, CSE Chair; and Aaron Liao, CSE Alumni Advisory Board President, welcomed alumni and encouraged them to engage in future UCSD and CSE alumni opportunities. During the reception, guests were given the chance to network and mingle with fellow alumni. At the end of the reception, alumni headed downstairs to the SD Hacks Opening Ceremony, where many stayed to serve as mentors for the students.

By Trisha Kholiya