WearHacks, the Chillest Hackathon, Invading from Canada

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These past few months I've been getting involved in hackathons in the Tri-State area. What is a hackathon, you say? I get that question quite often. Most of the time, around 78% (I write code and play with electronics, I need statistics people) it's put in an accusatory tone, as if the DDOS attacks on Rutgers campus were perpetrated by me. No, it's a 24-48 hour window where your everyday University MacGuyvers have a sleepover and make stuff. From PennApps in September to Big Red Hacks at Cornell and HackNY, and organizing our own hackathon at Rutgers, HackRU, I've had a lot of experience this fall, but WearHacks is a different breed.

Yesterday I was about to be on my way to HackUMass with my posse from the Cave (a comp-sci community lounge and help area on campus) when a wicked cool Rutgers alumni named Sam Agnew posted on the Hackathon Club page about this hackathon in NYC, WearHacks, a wearables hackathon. That's highest density of the word "hackathon" I've ever typed in a sentence.

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So wearables, for the unititiated is shortspeak for wearable electronics, or electronic hardware you can wear. Those Fitbits? Wearables. Apple Watch? Wearables. Android Wear? You guessed it. Wearables.

Wearables are overtaking the consumer tech world, and its's not limited to just watches. The original Google Glass is an adept example of this, as are those shirts you can get for raves that light up to the beat of the music. ThinkGeek.com used to sell a "personal soundtrack" shirt with a built in speaker with which you could play music.

I've been making knit beanies on commission for a while and started a "hack" (read: a hardware project) that could display text from a phone to a screen on a beanie. I wanted to put the two together and start selling hats with displays, with sensors, with buttons on my store. Who knows! The ideas are endless!

So I notified the carpool that was going to take me to HackUMass and off I went to NJTransit and the NYC Subway. I arrived to the university formerly known as NYU Polytechnic at 12:30 in the morning and was accepted warmly into the hackathon. This is a great surprise for me. Most hackathons are go go go, not much time for chatting or hanging out, but the organizers stayed to watch me discuss Huffman trees to another attendee, a subject I'm quite passionate about.

From an air of collaboration to an early morning Back to The Future showing, and self-initiated karaoke in my work room it appeared calmer than most hackathons I've been to. Chill. It was smaller. I like smaller. Rutgers' huge busy environment can get overwhelming at times.

So I worked on a hat I started earlier with a built-in-display that connects to the phone and displays text outwardly. I got the hat to a point where it functions but the wiring has to be kept in an awkward equilibrium. I need to work on sewing the circuits over time.

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So I walk away from this with a project, and a new experience. Going to New York City on my own for a weekend, doing what I wanted to do, and with a few ideas to continue developing. I think Rutgers needs this type of environment. Its Business atmosphere gets in the way of technology-making. Competition in excess gets exhausting so I super enjoyed this hackathon. Plus it was run by a Canadian company, further adding to the chill of the event.

I'll be looking for some Rutgers Computer Science folk to help me out to bring this hackathon to Rutgers. You know how to contact me, come discuss!

Other readers, check out some hackathons in your area. Here's a lineup from one of the most prominent hackathon leagues: https://mlh.io/seasons/f2015/events

P.S. MLH is founded and headed by a former Rutgers grad.