Upsilon Pi Epsilon hosts second annual hackathon

Entrance to the ShellHacks event in PG-6. Photo by Ivonne Rodriguez

By: Yeskanisayka Urbina/Contributing Writer


FIU’s largest student organization for technology, Upsilon Pi Epsilon, hosted their second hackathon, ShellHacks, welcoming college students from different universities and majors to participate in the collaborative hacking event.

The event took place on campus and it was the second time it was organized during a fall semester.

With 36 hours, 600 selected students gathered in Parking Garage 6 to create a project based on a challenge involving coding while learning about the latest innovative technology.

“The idea behind this is to get people to learn more about coding and getting close… Inspire them to make projects,” said President of Upsilon Pi Epsilon, Cesar Villa Garcia.

ShellHacks kicked off on Friday evening, Sept. 14, and ended on Sunday, Sept. 16, with an opening and closing ceremony.

Students received a tote bag with goodies as they checked in, but that wasn’t the only welcoming UPE had planned.

UPE prepared activities such as yoga sessions, ping-pong, and gaming tournaments to prevent participants from mentally burning out while creating throughout the weekend.

“We have workshops, we have activities, we also have a lot of meals and snacks,” said Villa Garcia. “The tournament is completely free and meals are provided…we had Chipotle, P.F. Chang’s and are getting 600 Night Owl Cookies.”

Introductory workshops were presented by the faculty staff and sponsor mentors for those passionate about technology, but who have never previously coded before.

“You can come here and go to the workshops and just learn. You can learn a little bit about how to create your website, how to make a mobile app,” said Villa Garcia.

As the event had students coding for roughly 36 hours, students had the opportunity to sleep on campus and get back to coding after a break.

“Sometimes people do all-nighters like they might stay open ‘till 4-5:00 a.m. and then go to sleep for 3-4 hours and get back to it,” said Director of ShellHacks and Vice President of Upsilon Pi Epsilon, Christopher Rodriguez.

The University also welcomed students from the University of Central Florida, University of South Florida, Florida Gulf Coast University, University of Florida and more.  

“I want to come here to immerse myself and learn as much as I can…I don’t know if I’m going to work on one thing specifically. I’m probably going to brainstorm and look around. I have a robe in my backpack and I brought a blanket,” said Thalia Socarras, a software engineering major from Florida Gulf Coast University.

The hackathons happen twice in an academic year, so students have time to prepare for the next event in the spring.

“We’re one of the weird schools that has two hackathons happen,” said Rodriguez. “We just do a hackathon over the course of the fall semester and then you know, we already have one in the spring and students get prepped and ready.”

The challenges provided by sponsors were to inspire the participants to learn something new while creating their project and win one of the prizes they bring.

“For example, let’s say JPMorgan Chase has their social good challenge. It’s usually going around the theme of creating a hack that helps with the social good… So they create an app that involves that kind of aspect,” said Rodriguez.

From a pool of prizes like speakers and headphones, the first, second and third place winners were able to grab whichever prize they wanted.

UPE told Student Media they were able to retain 100 percent of all the sponsors from last year to this year considering they were happy with the event’s outcomes.

This year, students at ShellHacks were joined by 50 sponsors with 22 present, including well-known corporations like, Chevron, JP Morgan Chase, Spotify, Microsoft, Amazon, Google and more.

The event was open for non-tech students for presented mentorship opportunities from workshops and sponsors.

Students from any major were able to get in touch with recruiters at the event and turn in their resumes as well as help them with their project.

“Take every opportunity that’s presented to you and make it about learning,” Cherise Bernard, a Spotify representative said.

FIU will host their other hackathon, Mango Hacks, in the spring semester.

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