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HackOHI/O: Ninth annual hackathon makes in-person return

The Lantern
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More than 600 students from Midwest schools will converge on the Ohio Union this weekend for HackOHI/O 2021. Credit: Courtesy of HackOHI/O

On Saturday, computer science and coding enthusiasts can spend their day inside the Ohio Union taking part in Ohio’s largest hack event.

Hosted by student organization OHI/O, HackOHI/O is a 24-hour hackathon that centers around innovation, problem-solving and networking. What started in 2013 as a small gathering in the basement of the 18th Avenue Library has quickly grown into a huge success, boasting annual turnouts of more than 800 people, Grace Cao, a fourth-year in computer and information science and HackOHI/O co-lead, said.

“For people who don’t really know the term, a hackathon is just a 24-hour coding event where you have different challenges, and sponsors will pitch in and help the event,” Cao said.

This year’s event will diverge from the norm and be 25 hours long due to daylight saving time, Cao said. After an opening ceremony, the 25-hour countdown begins and participants get to work on a project of their choosing.

The hackathon is more about creativity and technology than cybersecurity, as the name may imply, Dominik Winecki, a fourth-year in computer science engineering and HackOHI/O co-lead, said.

“Maybe you want to come in and try and build something that’s going to make the world better, or maybe you want to build something that’s stupid and reckless,” Winecki said. “That’s not to downplay the stupid and reckless stuff because it is a great way to learn, and people doing stuff that they’re passionate about outside of their classes is really the goal.”

When participants aren’t coding, Cao said there are other opportunities to engage in their interests. Participants can network, apply for internships and interact with industry sponsors, according to the organization’s website .

“Sponsors who come in, they’ll plan tech-talks on a specific topic that their company currently focuses on, so those will be the kind of events that draw students in, as well as coding,” Cao said.

According to their website, OHI/O hosts multiple hackathons in Columbus each year, along with other events for students to use their technology skills and participate in challenges. Students of any major are welcome to attend HackOHI/O, Winecki said.

“It’s absolutely open to people of all majors,” Winecki said. “We definitely skew highly in the engineering field, although we do actually allow people to build pretty much anything, as long as it is in some way related to technology.”

Cao said this is HackOHI/O’s first year back in person after being held remotely in 2020 due to the pandemic.

“One of the areas that we really noticed in 2020 that left with COVID is that people really love coming to HackOHI/O because they get to be with a bunch of people who are both in their major, and also the ones who want to take time out of their day and do something interesting outside of it,” Winecki said.

Hackathon will take place Saturday and Sunday at the Ohio Union. Those interested in participating can register on the HackOHI/O website.

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