[Think]box provides unique hackathon experience


Students worked on teams for projects during HackCWRU 6 in the [think]box.

Nathan Lesch, Staff Reporter

Over 350 students from across Northeast Ohio holed up in the Larry Sears and Sally Zlotnick Sears think[box] for 36 hours as a part of HackCWRU 6 from 9 p.m. Feb. 15 to 9 a.m. Feb. 17. HackCWRU is an annual hackathon event organized by the student organization HackCWRU, and is part of the official student hackathon league, Major League Hacking.

Hackathons typically bring together coders and computer science students to solve problems, innovate and compete for prizes. HackCWRU is different from most hackathons because think[box] offers participants the ability to work on hardware and software projects.

According to Michael Smith, a third-year computer science student and the director of logistics for HackCWRU 6, “think[box] is the key factor that makes HackCWRU so special. The majority of hackathons are strictly computer science events. With think[box], however, HackCWRU is able to provide students with the resources needed to create a really cool hardware hack.”

Smith began participating in hackathons at HackCWRU 2016 and has since participated in seven other hackathons. He believes there are many reasons why it is beneficial for students to participate in hackathons.

“Hackathons provide a place for students to apply their knowledge from the classroom in real world projects,” he said.

Additionally, HackCWRU allows participants to network with sponsors, which included KeyBank, Rockwell Automation, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and OmniSci this year.

Rockwell Automation’s representative at HackCWRU, Case Western Reserve University alumnus Anthony Castellaneta, mentioned similar advantages to participating in hackathons.

“I think hackathons are an incredible tool for building your resume with real hands-on experience,” said Castellaneta. “The projects are generally exciting, and the passion the hackers have really shines through.”

Castellaneta explained that “As an engineering company, we love hackathons, and HackCWRU at the think[box] in particular, because it self-selects the kind of new hires you want in your company.”

He noted that when conducting interviews he generally rated students who talked about interesting hackathon projects and experiences well.

HackCWRU also hosts an annual 12-hour hackathon event for Local Hack Day in early December. Due to the shorter time frame of that event, participants focus on learning and smaller projects. Participants of all skill levels are welcomed in both hackathons.

HackCWRU also is looking into expanding future hackathons.

According to Smith, “We are looking into separate hardware focused and software focused hackathons, but nothing is set in stone yet.”