The Evolution of Hack U™

Hack U logos over the years

It’s 3 a.m. and piles of sleep deprived students line the hallways around campus, happily coding away. Those who are used to pulling all-nighters remain glued to the faded light of their computer screens, stocked with energy drinks and snacks in an effort to stay focused on their project and fight the urge to sleep. Some find comfort in the space they’ve claimed on the floor – a makeshift workstation created with nothing more than a backpack as a “chair” to lean against. Others huddle around tables desperately fixing bugs and trying to figure out what features should come next. The students will take different approaches but one things remains true for everyone…they have less than ten hours to complete their dream project so they have to think quickly! This scene depicts what some students still refer to as the “coolest thing they’ve done in their entire university career” – Yahoo!’s Hack U™.

Yahoo! has been bringing the excitement of Hack U™ to university campuses for over five years. During the course of one academic year, top developers from Yahoo! fly out to a select number of universities across the country to teach a series of web technology workshops and classes, and then host a 24-hour coding competition with plenty of caffeine, food, music, camaraderie, demos and awards. Hack U™ is not about perfect code – it’s about learning new things, fostering community, inspiring creativity and bringing a cool idea to life.

Throughout the years, the hack program has changed quite a bit as web programming tools and technology have become better, more open and accessible to computer programmers. This new level of quality and access to technology has raised the bar and these days students are developing hacks that could actually turn into start-ups or become a real product, app or feature. This caught the attention of several top technology companies and VCs who are now consistently looking to this bright young group of developers for fresh product ideas, technical feedback and of course, top talent.

Today you’ll find Facebook, Microsoft and others have joined Yahoo! in hosting their versions of all night university hackathons – a move which has created a terrific opportunity for students around the world to dream big and showcase their skills and ideas to top engineering teams at these companies.

University student groups such as the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) love these hack competitions so much that they’re no longer waiting for a company to host an event on their campus. Several schools are now organizing their own hack competitions and inviting the companies to participate as category sponsors. This student-run format creates an even wider playing field for the students, one that has opened the door for partnerships with nonprofits and government organizations. The students are thrilled to work with organizations such as RHOK which provides them with the opportunity to work on solutions for real problems facing the world today.

Whether students are hacking to solve a problem, connect with friends, build their dream app, find an exciting career opportunity, showcase their big idea to a VC or save the world – it’s clear that they love to innovate and hack – in whatever form it may take. Hack on!

For more information on Yahoo!’s Hack U™ program, go to http://developer.yahoo.com/hacku/

- Jamie Lockwood, Hack U™ Program Manager

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