The Perks of Being a Hacker: Why MHacks 6 Was Better Than Game Day

By Kate Toporski, CFE Content Development Intern

 

This past Saturday morning, students across Ann Arbaugh prepared for the ultimate kick-off to the Fall semester – the first home football game. A sea of maize and blue, littered with the occasional red solo cup, piled into a full stadium to see a battle of the woodland animals – Wolverines vs. Beavers.

On that same Saturday morning, on the complete opposite end of campus, an event of a different kind was already in full swing. Thousands of students were furiously coding  apps, sites, and products striving to produce the next greatest “hack.” These hackers had spent the last 12 hours already creating technology such as robot arms (that’s right, robot arms) and were continuing to work until noon on Sunday. Right about the time sleepy football fans were heading to brunch, these hackers were about to showcase their innovations to a full Hill Auditorium of students, faculty and representatives from leading international companies such as Walmart, Apple, Facebook, and Uber, to name a few.

From Friday to Sunday, more than 1,500 students from across campus, and the country (even Canada), traveled to University of Michigan’s North Campus to participate in the sixth annual U-M hackathon, organized by student group MHacks and hosted by The Center for Entrepreneurship. MHacks is a 36-hour event where students congregate to create the most cutting-edge programs and software with a chance to win prizes and gain the attention of Fortune-500 technology companies.

While U-M game day and MHacks couldn’t be more different, there was just as much spirit and energy focused on hacking as there was at the Big House.

Many have asked, why would thousands of students skip the first glimpse at U-M’s hero in khakis to be crammed in front of a computer for three days straight? The CFE has Eight Reasons Why This Year’s MHacks was Better Than Game Day:

 

  1. The industry sponsors were the real deal.

DSC_0976 copy

 

MHacks 6 will go down in hackery-history as having the biggest and coolest industry partners. MHacks sponsorship lead, Tyler Laredo, spent his summer under CFE’s wing and guidance working to put together a most impressive company turnout. Why does that matter? Swag, food, internships, and more. Just keep reading.

 

 

IMG_8351

 

 

  1. Endless swag – quality swag.

From sweatshirts to sweatbands, laptop stickers to backpacks, CFE water bottles to phone chargers, this weekend’s hackers left with a lot more than a sweaty, student section shirt. Companies and departments alike pulled out all the stops to shower students with the coolest hats, sunglasses, t-shirts, tanks, and Go-Pros cameras (yep, Go-Pros). Free (and actually useful) stuff galore.

 

 

 

  1. Squished into a concrete, standing-room-only stadium? Pssshhh. MHacks students kicked it back.

IMG_8449

 

There’s nothing better than standing in a mass of sweaty, screaming humans for hours on end after a stressful first week of school…right? Meanwhile, the students on North were hacking in style: Swivel chairs in EECS, plush couches at the Walmart lounge in Beyster, beanbag chairs scattered throughout Dow, all designed to make students comfortable and at ease as they casually changed the world in one weekend. Also, last time we checked, you can’t take an afternoon nap at the Big House.

 

 

 

 

  1. FREE food.IMG_8370

Let’s be honest, the only way you’re getting free food at Michigan Stadium is if you find it on the ground. “Here’s your soft pretzel with cheese. That will be $27.50.” Ummmm, how about not? The sponsors of MHacks provided their hackers with free (and delicious) meals and snacks the entire weekend. Good eats included Tropical Smoothies, fried chicken, Pizza House and beignets – yes, those fancy, french donuts. Where can a college student get fed at no cost for an entire weekend without having to make a trip home to Mom and Dad? MHacks.

 

 

 

  1. You get an internship! You get an internship! You get an internship! Literally. On the spot.

IMG_8360

 

That’s right Michigan students – paid, summer internships were awarded on site as students networked with the coolest emerging technology companies in the world. Mouth watering yet? Haven’t you been desperately wanting that big-break internship at Google, Concur, Apple, or Microsoft?! Well, too bad. Your future may have passed you by. Hope it was a fun tailgate.

 

 

 

 

  1. You can win BIG. Cash and attention.Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 1.11.32 PM

With 247 entries in the final showcase, the judges selected three teams- Relay, Smartify and SmartShower – as the “best” hacks from the weekend. These teams collectively won more than $50,000 in prizes, which included cash, technology, and tours of WalMart headquarters in both California and Arkansas. These teams left with Apple
Watches, iPad minis, and did we mention, again, job offers? …but you couldn’t even get cell service in the Big House, could you? Darn.

 

 

 

  1. MHacks is the breeding ground for entrepreneurial opportunity.

Beyond spending a solid day and a half hacking, students came up with brilliant, IMG_8430groundbreaking ideas that solve real problems. One group of students from the University of Michigan is ready to take off with their hack, Simplify. It’s the be-all, end-all app for people who aren’t so tech-savvy. “My grandpa got an iPad for Christmas, but had no idea how to use it. He read a HUGE manual to try and understand, but still couldn’t figure it out,” said Simplify team member. By incorporating a database of local numbers for restaurants, hospitals, car services, and even an easy-to-use messaging device, Simplify puts everything you want to do on a device in one place. CFE has highlighted this team with great potential for a startup – and will be working with them to get it going. Hate to break it to you, but Harbaugh can’t help you start your own business…

 

 

  1. MHacks is the blueprint for idea-creation that can change the world.IMG_8422

While football may be the highlight of Fall at The University of Michigan, MHacks could very easily become the highlight of someone’s life. This weekend, students advocated for native languages to be preserved. Students created a robotic, sensory arm for the blind to easily pick up, set down, and navigate different objects. Students developed an app to better conserve and manage water use. MHacks is place of community and change, where the name of the game is innovation for the betterment of the world. Let’s hail to these victories.

 

MHacks trumps game day. Period.

To learn more about MHacks, student entrepreneurship, or explore turning your own ideas into reality, head to cfe.umich.edu.