Robbie Short

How do you counter fake news and disinformation on social media? How do you identify technologies that are commercially viable? How do you help college students succeed? This weekend, 1,000 students from Yale and peer institutions across the globe will attempt to address exactly these challenges.

The fifth annual Yale Hackathon, YHack 2017, will take place Friday through Sunday. The event, funded largely by corporate sponsors, including Google, Facebook, Viacom and JetBlue, will offer participants the opportunity to work in teams to solve pressing challenges in the fields of finance, education and health care using computer science. Student-hackers who present exemplary projects will be rewarded with prizes from the event’s sponsors.

“I’m attending YHack because hackathons provide a bunch of resources for hackers to learn by putting their ideas into action in an accelerated timeline,” said Denise Chai, a first-year student at Wellesley College.

Shivam Sarodia ’19, this year’s event director, noted that, apart from coding and hacking challenges, the event will feature informational talks and interactive workshops pertaining to computer science hosted either by Yale students or company representatives.

Sarodia added that there would be meditation sessions, performances by Yale student groups, snacks, activities such as paper snowflake–making and perhaps even a ramen-eating contest.

Among other entertainment, this year’s event will continue the time-honored YHack tradition of a “rap-battle” among participants. But despite that continuity, YHack has also evolved over the years.

“When we started, the sponsors were mostly traditional tech companies,” Sarodia said. “But now we’re really incorporating a whole variety of sponsors — Viacom and Stanley Black & Decker … companies that have really interesting tech challenges but don’t really yet have the tech workforce to tackle them.”

Michael Bardakji, a sophomore at Brown University, told the News he was looking forward to participating in company challenges and applying his computer science knowledge to real-world scenarios.

Apart from the excitement of hacking and the allure of potential recruiters, participants will also enjoy the opportunity to engage with like-minded peers from around the world.

Lionel Jin ’18, who has participated in YHack for the past three years and will take part again this weekend, said that the event is a great opportunity to get to know other people who are excited about technology.

“I love meeting fellow students who are excited about tech and being put in an environment that focuses you on building something cool in very little time,” Jin said. “Find people you enjoy working with, and also go make new friends at the hackathon.”

For many participants, such as Bardakji, YHack 2017 will be their first hackathon experience.

According to an email from the YHack team to those registered for the event, about fifty technical mentors will be available to assist teams with their projects. Participants can also seek help at an office-hours area.

Anushree Agrawal ’19, a YHack board member, said that attending workshops and talks can offer a good introduction to hackathons for first-time participants.

“Don’t feel the need to make something perfect the first time,” Agrawal stressed. “Just learn to make something new. Set a goal for the event.”

YHack received a total of $200,000 in funding from corporate sponsors for this year’s event.

Saumya Malhotra |