“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” -William James
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a local engineering event open to the public (provided advanced registration was duly made online) called Hack Upstate, which this year, was held at “The Tech Garden” in nearby Syracuse. This was a gathering of bright minds from all over New York state, who got together with the sole purpose of seeing what kinds of crazy projects could be attempted (and even more, completed!) over the course of an ever-so-short 24 hour window. The word “hack” in the name might imply a certain affinity for computer programming, and while there were certainly a majority of code projects on display, the competition is not limited to them in any way. There were some incredible feats of electrical and computer engineering accomplished for such a short amount of work time, and that is just the tip of the iceberg! The purpose of the competition is to utilize existing technologies in interesting ways – apart from that, there are virtually no restrictions on what can be attempted.
There were people from all walks of life present – even non tech-oriented types who simply had ideas they wanted to see realized. It truly was a melting pot for innovation. One group materialized a web-based game utilizing the popular Bandcamp website, wherein players could vote on randomly generated bands in order to find the so-called “best band on Bandcamp”. Another group created a website where stories are dynamically created by the users of the site – any user could add new branches or alternate endings, etc.. to an existing story, at will. Cool stuff.
Now, this probably sounds like all work and no fun, right? Think again! Organized by the show-runners of Syracuse Startup Weekend, Hack Upstate is a less formal event that takes place twice a year, and is a rockin’ good time meant to encourage interaction amongst the participants in fun ways. It starts with idea pitching, where anyone can come up in front of the audience and try to sell their idea to everyone in the hopes of finding talent to help work on it. After the competition begins, its just a party, with practically unlimited pizza and subs and free reign to do pretty much whatever you want. (There’s even an award given to the most social/engaging group of the competition!) A few of us groups got together and decided to go to a local venue nearby and do work while listening to some live music – truly a memorable experience.