QUESTees Hack Bitcamp 2016

Bitcamp is an all-weekend hackathon, hosted on the University of Maryland’s campus. But what really is a hackathon? It’s a coding marathon where participants combine their hobbies and interests with technology to create some pretty fascinating products in roughly 36 hours. The 2016 Bitcamp, which took place April 8th-10th, had 1,100 participants working alone and in teams to create products and compete in company-sponsored challenges.

All of this information can be found on their website, but, despite the cheerful marketing, I was still having trouble picturing Bitcamp as fun. I, like most of the non-computer science populous, intellectually know coding isn’t just some guy in a room with a computer – but that is, without fail, what I picture anyway. Then, I heard about unicycles.

“I was trying to learn how to unicycle at 3:30 in the morning,” said Sam Lewando of Cohort 26 with a bit of a laugh – something I certainly didn’t expect to hear when I signed up to write an article about Bitcamp. Ben Graney Green (Q26) had a similar experience trying to ride an electric longboard tandem style and cited that “talking to other people about their projects and what they were doing and how things worked” was his favorite part of the event. It probably didn’t hurt that people had some pretty cool projects to talk about.

Ben spent the weekend working on a project he’d been meaning to do for awhile: constructing a literal point and shoot camera.

 

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Made using a camera module, Arduino, deconstructed ray gun, and an appreciation for puns, the ray gun camera functioned similarly to a standard digital camera – storing photos to a normal SD card. “I spent a lot of time soldering,” he said somewhat wryly, “but it was a nice space to push through it.”

Sam, on the other hand, spent the weekend collaborating with Bryce Peterson (Q26) and three of his roommates; it was their first time at a hackathon – but that didn’t stop them from diving in head first.

“We built Rock’em-Sock’em Robots, but with real robots. One of the robots had a webcam in the head, which was running a Kinetic and an Oculus… So it would be a person with Kinetic and Oculus fighting a person with a controller,” Sam explained. “We 3D printed the robot parts… it was a really fun time.”

robots

Both Ben and Sam fully recommend Bitcamp and all hackathons to anyone who’s even a little bit interested; they provide a chance to challenge both existing knowledge and learn new skills while having a lot of fun. I, for one, can certainly see the appeal.

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