“Fifty, sixty people. Cheese, pepperoni, combo. Wait, does anyone have allergies? Does Costco even accept debit?”
One may say that hearing this banter from the mouths of some of the most computer-savvy students at the University of California, Santa Barbara in the midst of a pizza ordering frenzy is amusing. Perhaps even more so is the ease by which they attempt to create the codes that keep our twenty-first century world spinning.
This past Saturday, Jan. 30, SB Hacks and Coders SB joined forces (and ordered pizza) to host what was intended to be a twelve-hour-long marathon of coding for interested individuals of all class and skill levels.
If the idea of a hackathon, which is essentially a room full of people staring at computer screens for hours on end, bores you, then you should know: programs developed in local hackathons of years past have quietly swept the campus by storm, including one Google Chrome plug-in that allows users access to Rate My Professor ratings directly off UCSB GOLD.
Unlike most hackathons that present participants with themes, prizes and strict time constraints, UCSB’s first Hack Day was less about competition and more about learning.
“This is primarily a space for people to maybe work with coding languages outside the ones taught in the CS program,” Benjamin Lampel, SB Hacks board member and computer science graduate student, said. “They can try out things that work with AIs, or augmented realities, which are getting more popular. We’re hoping that people can just come and hang out and learn something new.”
Of the twenty or so attendees, first and fourth years alike came together to spearhead new projects and practice their fluency in the still growing number of coding languages including Java, C++, Ruby and the ever popular Python.
Samantha Mladjov, though less experienced than the rest, was equally ambitious. As a second year environmental studies major, this was her first time tackling the basics of programming.
“My dad’s very into coding,” Mladjov said, “so that’s a big reason why I’m here. Also, I haven’t even downloaded Python yet. I’m starting to think I should probably get on that.”
Second year computer science major Davina Zamanzadeh, a veteran of hack marathons, having attended a competition at UC Berkeley earlier in the year, explained to Mladjov how her love for coding came to be.
“Tech culture in general is just very appealing to me, it’s fast-paced and there’s always something new happening,” Zamanzadeh said. “Sometimes I get so lost in coding that it’ll take hours for me to snap out of it and I think ‘Did I forget to eat dinner?’ One night I was so into a program that by the time I looked up it was already sunrise.”
Zamanzadeh is not the only one with a near religious devotion to her work. The back-and-forth chatter throughout the day was as intriguing as the programs created, as participants argued about “Pythonistas” and expressed their collective disgruntlement over languages that rely too heavily on “white space.”
By the end of the day, the hackers headed home around the six hour mark, having successfully laid out the framework for an updated version of the web game “Pong” while picking up new tips on web development from the In-N-Out touting ShipHawk recruiters.
And with wisdom beyond her years, Zamanzadeh left Mladjov, after her first day of coding, with one quote: “Learning how to code is like learning how to use nunchucks,” Zamanzadeh said. “It’s not going to work until you’ve really mastered it.”
SB Hacks is recharging for the second annual 36-hour hackathon set for April 22-24.