Your eyes droop as you reach for another Red Bull. You could head to the designated nap room, but you only have one short weekend to create something the world has never seen. You haunt Wells Hall — exhausted but excited—with 500 other students, each competing for prizes and networking with sponsors you’ve always dreamed of working for like Google, Microsoft and Amazon.
You must be at SpartaHack.
SpartaHack’s Executive Co-Director Matt Hammerly, a senior in computer science, described the event as “a 36-hour coding marathon for students to learn about coding and network with sponsors.”
He and Lauren Bretz, a second-year graduate student in applied statistics, are the executive co-directors of the event for the second year in a row. This year they want high school, undergrad and grad students of all disciplines to know that everyone can learn something at SpartaHack.
When she first joined the SpartaHack team, Bretz had never written a line of code in her life. She hopes others like her feel comfortable joining the community that SpartaHack has formed.
“I would encourage girls to sign up and just don’t be afraid,” Bretz said. “We really emphasize being inclusive, we’re not cool and flashy. We want to be good rather than prestigious,” she added.
Both Bretz and Hammerly agreed that a hackathon can be intimidating. “There are infinitely many reasons to be nervous,” Hammerly said. “But just go.”
Sam Berndt, another senior computer science student, had the same advice to give to those considering attending SpartaHack. He and his team won third place overall at the 2016 SpartaHack with a virtual reality web browser called Browsvr, inspired by an episode of Futurama.
“SpartaHack is by far the best hackathon I’ve ever been to,” Berndt said. “I came into computer science not knowing what I wanted to do, but the thing that actually got me into computer science was having an idea and making it into something. It made me fall in love with my major.”
Like Berndt, some students find that an experience like SpartaHack is exactly what they need to supplement their courses. “Many students want to do more, but don’t know where to start,” Hammerly said. The two co-directors believe that this is one of SpartaHack’s strongest contributions to the MSU computer science community.
“Tech is moving so fast, it’s hard for the university to keep up with the curriculum,” Bretz said. SpartaHack acts as a resource for students to learn what leading companies desire in a job candidate, as well as the latest trends in the tech world.
If you’re interested in learning about coding, technology or networking, be sure to check out SpartaHack’s website at 17.spartahack.com. No matter your skill level, there’s a place for you to participate in the upcoming hackathon.
Danielle Schwartz is a junior studying English and professional writing. When she’s not writing or taking pictures of her dog, you can usually find her eating a veggie burger or drinking English Breakfast tea. See her dog pics on Instagram at @danielleeilleen.