WWU Computer Science Club hosts 3rd annual coding competition

The Walla Walla University 2016 Hackathon, hosted by the WWU Computer Science Club, was held Saturday night, May 21, and Sunday, May 22. The event, which has been held on the university campus twice before, brought a student turnout of 24 participants as well as a number of computer science alumni volunteers.

Travis Crumley, senior computer engineering major and leader of the newly formed Computer Science Club, described what a hackathon is in more detail: “While the term might bring to mind programmers breaking their way into a secure system, hackathons today are called hackathons because you’re basically hacking a bunch of things together to try and make something really quickly,” he said. “You start with a goal of some sort in mind, then create what is essentially a hack job. The emphasis is on getting as far as you can with it in the allotted time.”

Participating teams of two competed and were ranked at the end of the event. “Their final products were judged based on how well they accomplished the problem they were trying to solve,” Crumley said. “For our case, since we’re building a website, we’ll have categories of judging for things like the functionality of the website, the user interface, the layout, clean design, etc.”

Senior computer science major Blake Kruppa and senior computer engineering major Kyle Elssmann made up this year’s winning team. “When I heard we won, I was a bit surprised. It felt good to know what we accomplished in the short period of time was good enough to win,” Kruppa said.

“Taking part in the Hackathon was a great experience. It was fun to be able to learn new programming tools and then have the opportunity to apply those skills,” Kruppa said, speaking of the web development programs used during the event, such as Node.js and AngularJS. “Since new programming tools were learned it was challenging to make everything function the way we wanted it to in such a short period of time.”

Jonathan Duncan, professor of mathematics and chair of the departments of mathematics and computer science, also played a role in the facilitation of this year’s Hackathon and was the main organizer of previous WWU Hackathon events. Duncan, in collaboration with WWU alumni employed at Microsoft, brought the initial idea of a coding competition and have been the primary creators of the challenge. This year, however, the Computer Science Club has taken a leadership role in technical setup for the event with assistance from the computer science department. Volunteers who helped facilitate and develop the WWU Hackathon this year were Microsoft employees and WWU alumni Bernard Pham ’83, electrical engineering, and Alwin Vyhmeister ’87, electrical engineering; Microsoft employee Paulo Sarli; and Apptio employee Israel Hilerio.

“A lot of students here don’t have much experience with the sort of high intensity coding environment this provides, and it also gives them a crash course in web development if they haven’t experienced it before,” Crumley said, when asked what participants take away from the Hackathon. “It’s a great way to learn new technologies and get to better know other people with similar interests here on campus.”

Posted May 31, 2016

Hackathon participants worked in teams of two and were judged on performance in categories such as functionality of the website they were building, the user interface, layout, and clean design.
Hackathon Volunteers
Volunteers who helped facilitate and develop the Hackathon this year were (left to right) Bernard Pham ’83, electrical engineering; Israel Hilerio; Alwin Vyhmeister ’87, electrical engineering; and Paulo Sarli.