Hacking The Summer Away at the IOL

This week our student employees took a break from their typical work schedules to get together and participate in our third annual UNH-IOL Hackathon! The UNH-IOL Hackathon is an event where programmers across all disciples and experiences join up to tackle lab-wide problems and create long term solutions. Students are separated into groups to work on the project of their choice in this week long event. This week, I checked in with students to talk about the importance of Hackathons, their projects, and how events like these help the lab.

The Hackathon takes place in the IOL’s GTP room. Groups ranging from 5 to 10 people are spread out across the room, clustered together working on their projects diligently. Mallorie Biron, '20 in computer science, was the first person I caught up with. She was working on the Visitor Lobby Check-In system so that here at the IOL, when visitors walk in we can do a better job keeping track of data. Visitors put their name, company, and event they are attending, parking, etc. into our system so that it can be easier analyzed. It is an effective way to keep track of visitors, making sure everyone is accounted for and such. Beyond that, we need an accurate record of attendance and attendees to see how broad out attendee base is, what companies they are representing, etc. A very useful tool for the lab!

I talked next with Joseph Pilotte, '21 in information technology and Dan Kirichok, '22 in computer science, who were working on a different project – creating a self serving website framework. “There are two parts to the project,” Kirichok explained. “The first part is a general framework so that anyone who wants to make an application to the IOL can put it on the framework. The second part is converting a tool called the RLM License Generator, converting PHP to Django so it can fit with the framework.” Making one centralized system will make the application process more streamlined.

After catching up with a few students, I could see that everyone was passionate about each project, and about this opportunity. What is the importance of Hackathon? I found out it goes beyond the projects everyone was working on. Pilotte explained that the Hackathon provides opportunities for everybody. It is a great way to learn “skills they wouldn’t learn in their everyday jobs,” Pilotte explained. This leads to a better understanding of languages and programs that they can apply back into their schoolwork, and their job here at the IOL.

Kirichok put it best; “I think it is a good learning experience. You get opportunities to program new languages and use new tools. Even if you don’t become experts, you get the baseline understanding which makes the next time you see it easier to work with.” This is Kirichok’s first week long Hackathon, which he says is “a nice change of pace from the lab. It’s nice to work with other people, and overall is a lot of fun.” I think that sums up Hackathon perfectly. A great opportunity to improve the lab, and improve your personal set of skills. Cannot wait to see next year and all the new projects!