William & Mary

Calling all coders

  • Prime hacking real estate
    Prime hacking real estate  Most hacking teams work at traditional table-and-chair setups, but these students scouted out and laid claim to a comfortable spot in a lounge area in Small Hall.  Photo by Joseph McClain
  • Hackathon nerve center
    Hackathon nerve center  The tribeHacks headquarters in Small 126.  Photo by Joseph McClain
  • Is there any coffee?
    Is there any coffee?  At a 32-hour coding marathon, coffee is ordered in bulk. At one point, an anxious, tousled hacker sidled up to a tribeHacks committee member and muttered “Is there any, ah, secret coffee down here.” He was shown a stash, whereupon he made haste to fetch his thermos.  Photo by Joseph McClain
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William & Mary’s annual student-run coding marathon known as tribeHacks is a combination hardware and software competition that has evolved over the years to incorporate elements of a tech expo and job fair.

During the 32-hour hackathon, teams of students work together to try to build the best app, web component or hardware enhancement. In previous years, teams have hacked a drone to follow a target autonomously, a wah-wah pedal for an electric guitar and a 3D body scanner that enables the capture of full-body 3D renderings.

The students are tasked with managing nearly every aspect of the hackathon. Swem Library plays host to the students, and they are expected to follow two main rules: no soldering and you can’t fly drones inside the library.

Swem not only plays host to students, but also to crowds of recruiters scouting talent for the sponsor companies they represent. Hackathon organizers are tasked with securing such sponsors, and last year’s organizing committee locked in several tech giants, including Facebook.

Companies like Facebook have a vested interest in getting the best possible candidates to come to work at their corporation, and the hackathon gives students the opportunity to showcase their talents.

Sponsors offer more than just job prospects. They often bring a team of their own specialists to help hackers work through problems related to a company’s hardware or software. Some sponsors even present their own challenges at the event and students are awarded prizes if they are able to solve them.

Broad areas of expertise and a diverse student body within computer science is helping attract tech giants to recruit at William & Mary.

According to Michael Lewis, chair of William & Mary's Department of Computer Science, about 30 to 35 percent of the department’s undergraduate majors are female. That is nearly double the national average.

tribeHacks is open to all students who are interested in technology and spending the weekend building hardware or software. All experience levels and all areas of interest are welcome. To learn more, visit www.tribehacks.com.