Bright minds descend on Western University as Hack Western gets underway

Students work away on projects during a Hack Western event at Western University. Fawaz Kadem / Hack Western

Bright minds will be put to the test on Friday as university students gather in London, Ont., for the sixth edition of Hack Western.

The event centres around a hackathon taking place at Western University that will task participants with bringing a unique project idea to life in only 36 hours. Those participating are allowed to form teams of up to four members.

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A hackathon can be described as a mix of hacking and a marathon, but organizer Fawaz Kadem told Global News the term “hacking” is not used in the traditional sense.

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“We actually mean solving problems [and] using technology, whether that’s coding or creating a piece of hardware,” Kadem said.

“Students can come and practise those skills, and they can also learn from mentors, attend workshops and talk to sponsors.”

With 23 organizations backing the event, participants will have access to an abundance of sponsors, including the City of London, Canada Revenue Agency and Toshiba.

Sponsors will also lead workshops and activities throughout the event’s 36-hour timeline.

READ MORE: 48-hour hackathon invites techies to create apps with government data

Kadem said Hack Western typically sees participants create software. This year’s theme is Build Your Moonshot, which aims to see students tackle ambitious ideas to solve real-world problems while pushing their technical skills.

“When it comes to what people actually build, it truly is completely up to them,” Kadem said.

“We’ve had a wide range of projects being done, everything from AI to hardware projects.”

While the 36-hour event presents teams with a time crunch as they work to bring projects to life, Kadem said participants are encouraged to stay well rested and will be provided rest areas, snacks and meals.

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“Some people do choose to stay up and work on their projects… most of the participants will be there for the entire 36 hours.”

READ MORE: University students tackle food insecurity at Halifax hackathon

On top of the learning experience of working on projects and collaborating with peers, Kadem said there will be a number of prizes for the “best hack,” along with other prizes from the event’s sponsors.

Organizers are not revealing details on the prizes until later in the hackathon, but Kadem mentioned that last year’s winners were awarded Nintendo Switches for each team member.

Volunteer and participant registration has closed, but viewers can still catch the action on Hack Western’s Facebook page, Twitter page or by watching Hack Western live at Western University.

As for those looking to take part next year, Kadem said his biggest piece of advice is to go in with an open mind.

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