At UGAHacks 4, students will be able to work on their coding skills and interact with coders of all experience levels.

Staring at lines of code for 36 hours might seem like a nightmare, but for those looking forward to the fourth annual hackathon, UGAHacks 4, it’s a golden opportunity. The upcoming event gives students interested in computers a weekend to make connections and work with a team to complete their goals.

During the hackathon, both students who are new to coding or have years of experience learn and work together to earn prizes. A free T-shirt and free food are offered to participants. There will even be sleeping accommodations for those who wish to stay for the whole weekend. The event will take place Feb. 8-10 in the University of Georgia Lamar Dodd School of Art. In a Facebook event, UGAHacks described it as "one giant programming sleepover."

2018 graduate Danny Lee, who is now a software engineer at Google, will be an advisor for the event. He sees the event as a way for students to create something they choose and apply their own ideas in a way they can’t in class.

“Students have an opportunity to build additional software that can be used for more production based service rather than building something for a class and that's the last time you ever touch it,” Lee said.

Jin Jeong, a junior computer science major and the lead director of UGAHacks, said the hackathon is also an opportunity for those in coding professions to meet students in the field of computer science. Sponsors for the event have access to the student participants’ resumes. Many sponsors send out mentors to teach classes and meet students, which is all part of their goal to promote coding activities at UGA and provide everything students need — free of cost.

Sponsors include private companies, as well as the Major Hacking League, an organization that helps colleges put on hackathons. The computer science department shows their support for the event with many of the department’s professors acting as judges.

“People need everybody in the group. That’s when an 80 percent project becomes a 100 percent project and wins prizes.”

— Jin Jeong, lead director of UGAHacks

At UGAHacks4, professionals will teach workshops helping students look through their code. Later, the mentors try to cater to beginners and experienced coders so students can attend workshops on topics like making a website to getting a job in the field. These activities can provide skills they might not learn in the classroom.

“My favorite part of a hackathon is being able to hang out with friends,” Lee said. “The hackathon provides everything and you're able to relax or compete for the entire weekend.”

Because this is the fourth year of the event, Jeong is worried the predetermined teams and increased competition will scare first time coders. This year, UGAHacks hopes to prevent as many people as possible from walking out of the event before it’s over, so the coding organization is providing workshops on team building and helping those who are less experienced.

They try to combat imposter syndrome by telling participants more than coders are needed for projects. For projects to win a prize, they must have good design elements and be presented effectively, which calls for a variety of skills.

“People need everybody in the group,” Jeong said. “That’s when an 80 percent project becomes a 100 percent project and wins prizes.”

Besides the first, second and third place, awards are offered for best design, best hardware and best idea for a first-time hacker. Each prize is valued over $100.

Lee said each hackathon has done well to build on top of the last one. Jeong expects over 400 participants at the upcoming hackathon. However, UGAHacks hopes to gain more support from the university in the future.

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