Introducing HackMcGill: A New McGill Community

30 Oct, 2013

HackMcGill is a new McGill community which provides a collaborative culture for programmers and those wanting to learn about programming. Founders Vasu Nadella and Mark Prokoudine looked for an organization that would allow them to participate in “hackathons,” but found that McGill was lacking such a community. Their solution was simple. “We decided to build a community at McGill for computer science, where people can come together, collaborate and learn from each other,” explains Prokoudine.

According to  Mohamed Adam Chaieb, HackMcgill’s External Director, “a Hackathon is an event, lasting anywhere between 12 and 48 hours, during which programmers, designers and and all kinds of people work intensively on a project called ‘Hack.’”

These projects are vast, including apps, games and websites. Chaieb gives an example of a project, “some members made an iPhone app to manage chores between roommates. Each roommate had a scoreboard and if a roommate really did nothing, it would post a status to their Facebook page.” Another example is a “recipe search engine that found recipes based on ingredients.”

Each week, HackMcgill organizes what they call, “HackNights.” At these HackNights, individuals can partake in Hackathons. Programmers work together to accomplish a single goal and share ideas. The objective of these nights is to gain knowledge and expertise from other programmers. Chaieb was thrilled with the turnout at the first HackNight. He exclaimed that their “first HackNight was incredible. There was not even enough space to hold everyone.”

In addition to Hackathons, HackMcgill has Hack 101 sessions. Hack 101 is an hour long tutorial for individuals with all levels of programming experience. Prokoudine explains, “Hack 101 is about getting people excited about programming.” Chaieb adds “we teach people how to get started with programming by teaching new things each week.”

Hack 101 sessions involve more experienced Hackers teaching new members and curious students how to create websites and web applications using different programming languages. It is an opportunity to ask questions, learn more about Hackathons, and meet like minded individuals on campus.

Members of HackMcgill also have the opportunity to participate in Hackathons at different universities. Chaieb says, “we participate with schools such as Yale, MIT and The University of Toronto.” HackMcgill organizes all transportation and bookings, while remaining free for its participants. These opportunities allow HackMcGill members to not only learn from their own peers but also from individuals at other universities.

Mike Noseworthy, a HackMcGill member, exclaims that “HackMcgill is a great place to learn new technologies, apply what we’ve learned in class, and even just meet people. Everyone at Hacknight is very friendly and it is easy to find someone with similar interests.” Noseworthy had the chance to participate in HackMIT. There he “had the opportunity to learn how to develop an Android app in only 24 hours.”

HackMcgill is also a good place to apply skills taught in computer science classes. Chaib says “the fundamentals that we learn at school are important and usually go way beyond things like building an app.” On the other hand, “on some projects you have to learn most of what you are doing on the spot because sometimes it can be very specific based on what you are trying to make.”

HackMcGill has many plans for the future. Chaieb presses, “in the near future, our big project is to have our own large-scale Hackathons.” At these Hackathons, other schools would be able to come to McGill.

Chaieb clarifies that HackMcgill is a “student organization that is light in terms of structure and organization. An organization that tries to bring all students with a common interest for Hackathons together.” To go even further, Prokoudine explains, “in the long-run, we are looking for HackMcGill to be a place where people can come and collaborate. We’re trying to establish a horizontal community.”

Marc Jarvis, another member of HackMcGill, sees HackMcGill as a nice break from his studies. He explains, “Even if I’m not actively participating in one of the many project groups, it gives me a dedicated timeslot to detach from schoolwork so I can put some effort into personal projects. The atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming and its very easy to get interested in what others are working on.”

Nowadays, tech start-ups are becoming extremely popular and programmers are in great demand. HackMcGill’s primary goal is not to play the role of matchmaker between designers and programmers. However, they are willing to help out with McGill start-ups. Prokoudine clarifies, “if it is a McGill student that is getting started, we are definitely there to help them out. We need to draw a line though because our primary mission is not to allow bigger companies to come and recruit. If it is McGill students or McGill alumni we will try our best to be of assistance.”

Getting involved with HackMcGill is quite easy. All it entails is checking the Facebook group to get more information on the time and location of various events.

For more information about HackMcGill visit:


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