November 20, 2023
This fall, UNC Computer Science transformed into a hub of technological innovation and collaboration with the back-to-back hosting of two major student events: HackNC and the Carolina Data Challenge (CDC). These hackathons, led by student teams with department support, brought together more than 700 students from various colleges across North Carolina and beyond.
HackNC, a 24-hour coding marathon that took place October 28-29, offered students from beginners to experienced coders an opportunity to develop and present technology projects. Beyond the main competition, HackNC was enriched with an array of workshops, offering insights into the latest developments in computer science and interactive product demonstrations by sponsors.
“At HackNC, it’s not just about coding. It’s about bringing together ideas and making them work,” said computer science senior Brianna Ta, one of HackNC’s student leads.
The event was further highlighted by prizes totaling nearly $5,000, contributed by sponsors, including Principal, Pearson, John Deere, Wells Fargo, Infosys, CapTech, Bandwidth, Cisco, Revvity, Stickermule, Zilliz, and Patient Safety Technology Challenge. At the end of the 24-hour hacking period, 80 projects were submitted covering a variety of categories, including community, communication, DEI, healthcare, and more. One team, composed of UNC students and members of the student club App Team Carolina, worked to create an app called Link that could seamlessly connect people in various scenarios, making it easier for them to find each other at large events, at transportation hubs, or in emergency situations.
Carolina Data Challenge was held from September 30 to October 1 and was focused on data science. Centered around the theme ‘nostalgia,’ students were tasked with creating data-driven projects in areas such as health science and pop culture. CDC event lead and junior computer science major Ajay Gandecha shared, “CDC is a chance for students to explore how data can tell stories and solve real-world problems.”
CDC projects covered a wide range of topics, demonstrating the broad applicability of data science. The Spotify Track Analysis Audio Features project analyzes music from the Y2K era that produced high revenue and charting. The Wildfires: 2000-2010 project creates a meaningful data visualization tool that provides maps highlighting the impacts of wildfires and the most affected states. The Back to the Data: Exploring Diabetes project examines patterns of diabetes patients and their readmission. These projects showcase the diverse areas where students applied their data analysis and coding expertise, transforming theoretical knowledge into practical solutions that address real-world challenges and situations.
Both HackNC and CDC emphasized inclusivity and educational opportunities for all students. “These hackathons are important because they welcome students from all disciplines, not just those in computer science,” added Ta. “They celebrate different ideas and ways of thinking.”
Both events have a marked impact on students, fostering a sense of community and skill development. “What students take from these hackathons goes beyond the projects they build,” shared HackNC sponsor and UNC CS alumnus Yujian Tang. “These hackathons are a testament to UNC’s commitment to nurturing future innovators,” adds Tang. “I am excited to see what students will come up with next.”