The word “Hackathon” was new to me when I first came to USC, but is something I quickly picked up as a student in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science community. Many people associate the term “hacking” with breaking into security systems and other shenanigans, but in tech culture a hack is just taking a stab at a problem, using only limited resources and some ingenuity. I wanted to see what the hype was all about, so I applied to a Hackathon held at USC. This Hackathon was jointly hosted by Mechanical, Electrical, and Computer engineering organizations on campus and was all about hovercrafts. I wasn’t on the robotics team in high school and have never been an electronics hobbyist, but I showed up at six on a friday night ready to hack. The rules were simple: “Build a hovercraft that can follow a black line autonomously, starting… Now!”
I found that nobody had shown up knowing exactly what they were doing, but my team broke our mission down into approachable tasks and worked in subgroups to steadily approach our goal. Throughout the weekend I learned aerodynamics, soldering, circuit design, and control systems all on the fly and could see the progress my team was making every hour. To see a project like this from start to finish over the course of two days was amazing and I’m so glad I was able to be a part of this event. I worked side-by-side with grad students and other undergraduates from different engineering majors as peers, and learned from everyone on the team. Our efforts paid off and we were actually able to win the competition; however the greatest prize was the experience of building something substantial from nothing. The community of USC students at this event was truly impressive, as every team came up with different solutions to the same problem. Events like this, and the upcoming HackSC and 1000 Pitches events, make me proud to be a trojan and keep me constantly learning and expanding my skill set. So, huge thanks to Viterbi for creating and nourishing this awesome community!