Southern California’s largest annual hackathon will take place March 27–29 for its eighth year, but in a virtual format due to concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. At this time, there are no confirmed cases of the coronavirus on the UCLA campus.
The 2020 edition of LA Hacks will celebrate UCLA’s 100th birthday by partnering with the office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and regional tech companies to challenge thousands of computer coders to create trailblazing technologies that support sustainability and help improve quality of life in Southern California.
“UCLA is proud to host this exciting event, particularly at a special time for our campus as we celebrate the many ways UCLA has had an impact on Los Angeles and the world in its first 100 years,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. “We are glad that LA Hacks will continue this year in a virtual format to ensure the health and well-being of the talented students who are participating, and I look forward to seeing how they push the boundaries of technology to address the challenges of today and tomorrow.”
Organized by UCLA students, LA Hacks is a 36-hour competition that brings together Southern California college and high school students to create new and exciting technologies. Competitors get a chance to network with some of the brightest minds in tech and to interface with recruiters from Google, Facebook, Microsoft and other companies that sponsor the event.
“The competition will go on, despite the coronavirus, just in a virtual format,” said Sriram Balachandran, a second-year computer science major at UCLA who is the executive director of LA Hacks. “We will be streaming our opening and closing ceremonies, as well as our workshops and panels, throughout the weekend. Workshops and panels will be open for the general public to tune in and watch.”
Balachandran also said the event will host virtual Q&A sessions that give participants the chance to interact with recruiters and engineers from the event’s corporate sponsors. Participants will be able to check in online and compete together remotely, after which they will submit their projects along with short demo videos.
“We want hackers to leave the competition feeling that they’ve had the opportunity to participate in something truly special,” Balachandran said. “We hope the resources we provide allow our participants to take projects even beyond the scope of the hackathon into projects they’re truly passionate about.”
More than 1,400 students have applied to be a part of the event. Participation is open to college undergraduates and graduate students, and high school students. Many participants are already proficient in coding, website design, Photoshop, or even cryptocurrency. But the event offers a wide range of resources, workshops and mentors to teach tech novices how to develop a project.
LA Hacks will have four tracks, or themes, in which students can compete:
- Under Construction (Like Always). This track focuses on engineering better ways to navigate life in Los Angeles, whether through secure tourism, safe traffic or strong infrastructure. Reimagine the city through technology that streamlines the urban experience.
- Trending Now. Los Angeles is the world’s entertainment capital, and home to many world-class athletes. With a legion of influencers living and working here, all eyes are always on Los Angeles. This track focuses on how creative powerhouses leverage technology to grow their brands and influence ever-larger audiences. Elevate the way we experience multimedia.
- Code Green. The technology of today shapes the planet of tomorrow, whether it’s protecting biodiversity, reducing emissions or conserving resources. This track focuses on innovative ways to preserve the planet we call home. Show us how we can build a sustainable future.
- Quaranteam. This track challenges participants to develop technologies and innovations to improve quality of life during the COVID-19 pandemic.
LA Hacks will be held in the midst of UCLA’s centennial year, as the campus celebrates its many contributions to Los Angeles, the nation and the world since its founding in 1919, as well as looking ahead to another century of discovery and achievement.