ASG to sponsor ‘hackathon’ to redesign Northwestern web services


Source: Associated Student Government

Undergraduate and graduate students can revamp Northwestern services such as Caesar and Wildcat Connection during ASG’s RedesigNU: Hackathon on April 25 and 26. The grand prize winners of the competition will receive $2,000.

Jordan Harrison, Assistant Campus Editor

Associated Student Government will host a 24-hour competition running from April 25 to 26 called ‘RedesigNU: hackathon,’ which will give undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to reinvent Northwestern Web services including Caesar and Wildcat Connection. 

“It’s really about creating the next student service,” said McCormick sophomore Christina Kim, an ASG member on the academic and services committees. “If you think that there’s something missing from your student experience and you think you can create it, we want to see that.”

Registration for RedesigNU will be open until April 24 and the actual coding will take place from 5:30 p.m. on April 25 to 6:30 p.m. on April 26. 

Kim said after gaging student interest, she is expecting about 100 entries. Registration will be capped at about 100 people and programmers can compete individually or in teams of up to six people, she said.

“During sign-in, we’ll give an opportunity for unmatched members, if they want to create a team, to form a team,” she said.

Participants will have the option to either recreate existing services or create entirely new programs, said Weinberg freshman and ASG senator Steven Bennett. 

“It’s more like redesigning the Northwestern student experience in general,” he said.

Kim said students have the insight needed to make and improve these programs.

“We feel like there’s a lot of improvements that could be made to services or services that don’t even exist yet,” Kim said. “Students know what they need.”

Programmers will also have access to live data from Caesar class search and Wildcat Connection through an application programming interface in order to help design and test their code,  Bennett said.

“I know some people are interested in creating a new way to look for classes,” Kim said. “That’s totally possible with this.”

Neal Sales-Griffin (SESP ’09), the co-founder and CEO of programming school The Starter League and a former ASG president, will be one of five judges for the competition. The judges will include faculty and administrators and contestants will be required to demo their code for the team at the end of the competition

The judges’ chosen winner will receive $2,000, and the runner-up will receive $1,000. There will also be an emerging underclassman innovator award to recognize less experienced programmers. The winner of this prize will be given $500 and a free Starter League class.

Additionally, NU students will be have the opportunity to vote for their favorite program from the top six entries throughout the week following RedesigNU. Students will be able to access and test out the programs through a “dummy site,” Kim said. The students’ choice winner and runner-up will also receive $2,000 and $1,000, respectively.

Kim said mentors will also be available to help newer programmers.

“Since the competition is open to graduate students and undergraduate students, we didn’t want to intimidate any new people with less technical background to not be able to participate,” she said.

McCormick senior Sheng Wu, one of the on-site mentors and ASG technology vice president, said hackathons are “exploding” across the country, and he is glad NU is joining the movement to cultivate a “hacker culture.”

Wu said RedesigNU is looking for a “proof of concept” and innovative ideas for its entries.

“The hackathon is basically a campus-wide brainstorm,” Wu said. “I think a lot of the criteria will be based on how great your vision is. What we’re looking for here is not a final, polished Web application.”

Twitter: @medilljordan