HackIowaState provides opportunities for real-world application


HackIowaState hackathon 2023. Taken by Andrew Larson

Over 45 participants from various majors applied their best software skills, devised solutions to real-world problems and sharpened their hacking abilities over a grueling 24-hour competition.

HackIowaState, a hackathon competition, provided beginners from cybersecurity engineering, software engineering, computer science, management information systems and electrical engineering majors a chance to create a project with the potential to innovate the technology of tomorrow. The hackathon took place at 12:30 p.m. Saturday through Sunday.

“Our mission is just to empower students to build tomorrow today, and we do this through these events, making sure that you have the resources to succeed,” said Armaan Gupta, a junior majoring in management information systems, founder of Kreative Horizon and the creator of HackIowaState.

The competition was launched through Kreative Horizon, an organization that provides resources for students to connect their ideas and skills to change the future of technology according to their website. It was sponsored by the Translational AI Center and the Ivy College of Business.

Gupta said he wants the event to be a place for students to gather and eat food and have the space, tools, resources and mentors to take innovation to the next level.

Kreative Horizon began in 2019 with its first event, “BuildChicago.” With plans to host hackathons in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, Gupta’s plans stopped due to the COVID pandemic. After years of waiting, Gupta launched HackIowaState in hopes of expanding events such as this hackathon across the midwest.

Gupta said he hopes people have a good time, learn something new and network with other students and professionals in the field. He said the beauty of an event such as this is the opportunity for students to meet others from across the university.

“For beginners, it’s critical that they have a good time and that they see the value of coming to things like this, so that they come back again and tell their friends,” Gupta said.

Gupta said that events such as HackIowaState are valuable in attracting more people to the college as it provides a space for software engineers, among other majors, to test their skills and put them to use.

Gupta said his hope is for students to have fun and build something– even something small, such as a prototype– so they have something to take with them after the event. He said while the event was difficult to put together in the short time he had, it was worthwhile.

“I’m so thankful for literally all my friends […] Dean Spalding for help sponsoring this and all of the judges, I mean, I’m just thankful for nine people to come help judge […] it means a lot to me,” Gupta said.

The winning project of HackIowaState was an application entitled Sit With Me, created to help Iowa State students find others to study, eat or converse within different dining or communal seating areas across campus.

Kennedy Wendl, a junior in computer science, Gabriel Pederson, a senior in aerospace engineering, Nicholas Erickson, a senior in software engineering, William Clemmons, a senior in software engineering and Thanh Mai, a freshman in computer science, were the four victors of the hackathon competition.

“I guess we did a lot of learning at the end of the day, and it really is a crunch because […] you’re learning a lot of new tech and it gets it gets a little overwhelming because you only have 24 hours but at the end of the day, you learn [how] to learn,” Clemmons said.

Clemmons said working with his team was a primary aspect of the competition that made it enjoyable.

“I really like this team,” Clemmons said. “It was all about getting a chance to meet new people who also program and also want to do cool things, and like, want to contribute to society.”

Wendl said she improved her group work and time management skills throughout the 24 hours.

“We did this mainly for experience; it’s something we’re all passionate about and want to pursue a career in,” Wendl said.

Erickson said he found the competition fun and worthwhile because it allowed him to create a project because it’s something he enjoys with people he enjoys being with.

“It’s fun because like, it forces you to actually make something on your own time, like, you’re in an environment where you’re forced to create a project and compete and you’re with people who also really enjoy it,” Erickson said.

Ellissa Peterson, an event volunteer, Iowa State alum and software engineer for PlayStation, said she was the first president of Iowa State’s Hackathon club, and after graduating she felt a calling to volunteer and return to ISU to help out at the hackathon.

“I just care a lot about hackathons still happening at Iowa State because I understand how important they are to students for finding jobs and getting experience,” Peterson said.

Peterson said the most important thing she believes students will take away from the competition is the opportunity for students to learn necessary skills to use in their professions after graduation.

“A lot of companies like to see that you’re willing to go out there and teach yourself so you can progress,” Peterson said.

Peterson said hackathons give students room to explore different areas and inspire them to grow in their field.

“I think that it’s a good opportunity to explore the things that maybe you haven’t gotten to in classes so you can kind of explore something you think you might like and figure out if you do like it or if you don’t want to go down that route,” Peterson said.