Yale’s student-run programming lecture series HackYale will soon expand to campuses beyond New Haven.
HackYale, a set of courses founded last fall by Will Gaybrick LAW ’15 and Bay Gross ’13, returned to Yale this spring with an expanded set of course offerings and will also appear at Princeton when the school begins its spring semester in early February. The move to Princeton marks the organization’s first attempt to bring the program beyond Yale, and Gross said he and Gaybrick aim to bring it to five more college campuses next fall, though he declined to specify which ones because the arrangements are not final.
Throughout HackYale’s continued growth, directors say funding has not yet posed a problem. HackYale has received several sponsorship offers from outside organizations, but Gaybrick said the group has not accepted any because operational costs are low enough for the group to pay its own expenses. The group has no plans to ask students to pay for the course or to become a for-profit organization, Gross said.
“Human capital is our highest expense,” Gaybrick said. “We are coders helping coders. That was our original motivation.”
HackYale has not accepted sponsorships so far, but Gaybrick said the program is planning to help companies looking for programmers connect with students.
The group is offering five courses on campus this semester and accepted 20 percent of applicants, Gaybrick said. HackYale has also increased its teaching team to 10 members, which Gaybrick said will help the program expand and lessen the time commitment and workload required from each instructor.
Gross said friends of him and Gaybrick will instruct the course at Princeton this semester, adding that the Princeton program is registered under the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club. HackYale chose its name so it could easily be adapted to other colleges and universities, Gaybrick said, and the program at Princeton will be known as HackPrinceton.
Currently HackYale’s most basic course, “Introduction to Frontend,” has two sections capped at 30 students each, while the three advanced courses — “Advanced Node,” “Development with Rails” and “Introduction to iOs” — have each accepted 25 students, Gross said. More than 350 people applied to the introductory course, Gaybrick said, while about 200 applied to the more advanced classes.
Gaybrick added that HackYale is adding a section to its website to address the most commonly asked questions that have come up about course assignments.
A week before applications to HackYale were due on Jan. 13, the courses were featured prominently on student-designed course selection tool Yale Bluebook. The Yale College Council also promoted HackYale on its website this semester and in the fall.
Charlie Croom ’12, who created Yale Bluebook with Jared Shenson ’12 and also is an instructor for HackYale, said the program offers students practical courses unlike many others at Yale.
“I don’t think that Yale’s curriculum prepares people for many of the Web-related jobs that exist in today’s economy,” said Croom, who will teach a HackYale class with Gross this semester. “I think HackYale is ahead of the curve in academia, acknowledging that Web development is one of the core skills every college graduate should have.”
Three students who applied to a HackYale course this spring said they wanted to be part of the programming community the classes have attracted.
Jeff Zhang ’14, a computer science major who has not taken a HackYale class, said while most programmers learn independently, he finds that classroom-style instruction is helpful when learning challenging concepts.
Paul Fletcher-Hill ’15, who is taking a HackYale course this semester, said he thinks programming skills are important because they allow people to break free of preset social media formats such as Facebook and Tumblr.
“One of humanity’s greatest assets is its creativity,” Fletcher-Hill said. “Programming is just another way of channeling that creativity, and if for that reason alone, it is here to stay.”
As the group expands, Gaybrick and Gross said they hope to ensure that HackYale will continue to exist after they graduate. Gaybrick and Gross each reduced their time commitments from teaching two courses to one this semester, and said they feel confident the programming community at Yale will keep the organization running in the long term.
Those not accepted to HackYale classes can audit the courses online and attend HackYale’s weekly workshops, which are open to the Yale community.