While it might be midterm season for some… it’s AthenaHacks season for me! (Just kidding, databases midterm on Monday!) Months and months of planning have led up to these 24 hours. This weekend, I’m running AthenaHacks, which is an all-female hackathon hosted here at USC! Last year, a couple of friends and I co-founded AthenaHacks, so it’s only our second year hosting it. We hope to continue offering this as an open and collaborative space for high school and college students to learn about the tech industry, meet fellow hackers, and learn new skills.
We (a group of 15 organizers) actually spend a little more than 24 hours for this event. Apart from the months of planning we do, like getting sponsors, food, workshops, and prizes, we have to get our venue ready for the day! We have the hackathon in the basement of Leavey Library, which has lots of open space for team collaboration. On the Friday before the event, we moved all of the swag, snacks, and other cool stuff that our sponsors ship to us into the library. Even with a minivan, it took three trips! That’s a whole lot of snacks and goodies 🙂
Our opening ceremony started at noon on Saturday, but we started the day bright and early at 8am. We set up snacks, sponsor shirts, and signs in the basement while getting ready for check-in and registration. It’s also an amazing feeling seeing all the hackers line up and get ready to hack! I love feeling the excitement and the anticipation for the hackathon to begin. The opening ceremony featured an amazing keynote, Cam Kashani, who told us about her experiences as an entrepreneur. She’s now known as the “Godmother of Silicon Beach”!
What’s really cool about hackathons is our sponsors! They do so much for us and bring us cool swag, like water bottles, shirts, games, and… fidget spinners! They love coming out to meet the hackers and give out cool prizes. They also put on some great workshops to help hackers get started with their projects. This year, our list of workshops included Intro to Machine Learning, Intro to Data Science, Intro to Web Development, Mobile App Development, and so much more. I can’t wait to see what the hackers built during our project expo tomorrow!
The rest of the day is spent making sure hackers are happy, full of snacks, and buried under a pile of swag and T-shirts (don’t worry, no participants were injured during this hackathon). My absolute FAVORITE part of the day was hosting the fireside chat with Susan Finley, NASA’s longest serving female engineer. Susan began her career as a human computer doing trajectory calculation by hand, days after the Explorer 1 launch. She currently works as a subsystem engineer for the Deep Space Network and was involved in the recent Pluto flyby and the Juno mission to Jupiter! She was the most adorable human I have ever met and I can’t describe how much fun I had talking to her. So many hackers were incredibly amazed to meet her (I definitely was!)
It’s been a super busy day one and it will only get more exciting from here! I can’t wait to see what people have to show off tomorrow during the project expo. Seeing all the hackers having a good time makes all the time planning worth it 🙂
Fun fact – all organizers have a five hour nap shift during the event! I’m about to go pass out for the next few hours, see y’all on the other side!!