Illustration by Kelsey Hill


Mark Adams and other organizers went door-to-door, to every computer science class on campus, to find participants for the first annual UC Santa Cruz hackathon last year. One year later, Adams doesn’t have to knock on any doors; roughly 300 students, compared to last year’s 90, are registered to participate, from cities as close as Aptos, San Jose and Monterey to places as far as Washington, Arizona and Mexico.

Adams — a former UCSC student — UCSC Center for Entrepreneurship director Brent Haddad and Santa Cruz New Tech MeetUp host Doug Erickson created Hack UCSC. Erickson said a survey showed more than 50 percent of participating students received job offers from companies in the Santa Cruz technology industry.

“Connecting the community with UCSC is a great thing to do to keep people here in Santa Cruz,” Erickson said.

Students participating in the hackathon have 46 hours, from Friday at 4 pm to Sunday at 2 pm, to collaborate with a team and develop a mobile app or web program based on their ideas. Students are not allowed to use prewritten codes, as all their work will be tracked and looked over in the final round.

One of the teammates who placed in Project Slug, which created a centralized posting board for UCSC artists, musicians and developers, is alumnus Alex Rowe. Although Rowe didn’t receive a job offer, he said the hackathon gave him the confidence to pursue a career in web development despite graduating with a physics degree.

“I have a job now doing web programming in Santa Cruz and that wasn’t something I had really thought about before doing the hackathon,” Rowe said.

While some participants formed teams prior to the event, students can find teammates the day of the hackathon.

“Half of the people who are going don’t have teams. I guarantee if you’re feeling apprehensive about the event that you will find a team that fits,” hackathon organizer Adams said. “Don’t think it’s just going to be you and your friends. It could very well be someone you meet at the event.”

The organizers hope to have students from different majors competing against each other. Hackathon organizer Erickson said many students assume hackathon participants are only coders, but a well-developed group requires diverse skillsets.

“We try to expand it so it’s not just coders,” Erickson said. “An ideal team when you’re creating a software product is typically coders, designers and entrepreneurs. People who can look at it and say, ‘I know how to create a business out of it.’”

While some participants may have already prepared for the hackathon, Hack UCSC 2015 participant Cole Varner decided to wait until the weekend to crack down on his idea.

“I know some of the other groups prepared a whole bunch,” Varner said. “They have their whole project pretty much planned out so they can get there and only have to build it. We’re kind of staying true to the spirit of it.”