HackED: Students and mentors get creative in 24 hours of coding

Team members Nathan Doarty, Raphael Grana, Michael Steers, Robin Verleun and Michael Bardwell strike a pose with their smart traffic cone at HackED.
(Edmonton) Some people run marathons, some try triathlons. But some people like to get creative with computers and gadgets and last weekend about 200 like-minded people spent 24 hours writing code and building devices at HackED, hosted by the U of A Computer Engineering students’ club.

The Jan. 27 – 28 event drew students from different faculties and disciplines, as well as working professionals and a team of mentors. Teams competing in the event designed and built everything from a system to control autonomous vehicles safely through busy intersections, to an app that could help you find restaurant specials.

“One of the positives of coming here was seeing all the different ideas,” said science student Carolyn Vinns. “There was a group here using their drill (to build a rover vehicle) until about 2 a.m. I learned a lot here. The workshops were really helpful.”

Computer engineering student Michael Steer added that attending hack-a-thons such as HackEd helps to connect students and potential employers.

“You get to speak with a lot of people from the different companies that are here as sponsors, and it turns into a really great opportunity to network with people,” he said.

“It’s a good thing to have on your resume too—it shows you work well in teams and it’s creative work.”

The team Steer was a part of designed and built a remote-controlled traffic pylon with the ability to speak, hear, and see. The device could be controlled democratically by people anywhere in the world, using the streaming service Twitch.

Although it seems frivolous, the technology has applications in everything from space exploration to remote mining operations.

Team member Rafaella Grana, a first-year engineering student who’s planning to study computer engineering, was impressed with the event. She says teaming up with more senior students and working professionals was a different kind of learning.

“Everything I’ve done here is like nothing I’ve ever learned an an educational institution,” she said. “This is the stuff that you have to learn yourself.”

Steven Knudsen, who volunteered as a mentor for HackEd, agrees with Grana’s opinion.

“HackEd is all about learning something new,” said Knudsen, who graduated with a computer engineering degree in 1984. “There are things students are taught at school and some things they aren’t—and rightfully so—and they learn new things at events like this.”

HackED was sponsored by Intuit, Startup Edmonton, Jobber and ATB.