Why I started UNIHACK – a hackathon for university students in Victoria

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If you haven’t noticed, I have not been blogging for a couple of weeks on TechGeek. Instead of writing about the Amazon FirePhone, I have been working on a side project with the IT student clubs at the University of Melbourne and Monash University (Clayton). I have been teasing little things about it on my Twitter account, but today is the day where you can sign up and participate!

The side project I’ve been working on is a hackathon called UNIHACK Melbourne. Teams have 24 hours to build an app or prototype, and they have to incorporate the theme of the competition – which is “discovery”. And as the name suggests, UNIHACK Melbourne is geared towards university and TAFE students.

The entire competition will be held at York Butter Factory over three days. The ‘hacking’ component of the hackathon will start at 4pm August 8th and end on 5pm August 9th. Teams then present their ideas to the judges on Monday August 11th from 6:30pm.

While we are still finalising a couple of things (such as prizes and judges), we can announce that the winning team will gain entry to PwC’s Technology Academy, a two-day workshop that teaches IT students technical, commercial and employability skills. From what I have been told, it has a really competitive application process. The winners get to bypass that.

So why did I start UNIHACK Melbourne? I was inspired by the work from another hackathon in Wollongong called Hackagong – which we have covered before on TechGeek. We never had anything like that at Monash University. And if we did, it wasn’t promoted very well to us by the faculty or the IT student group on campus.

I also wanted something that was annual and open to all university students like Hackagong and the other hackathons in the United States. Doing some research early on, the only one that I could find in Melbourne and was open to all students was Startup Hackathon Melbourne – and that lasted one year (2012). There have been other hackathons targeting students, but they were more niche or targeting females studying IT (there is nothing wrong with that, I should add).

Instead of waiting around for someone else to do it, I decided that I might as well do it.

I started emailing IT student clubs from other universities in Melbourne – including RMIT and Swinburne (who has three different IT clubs) – if they wanted to be involved in UNIHACK. However, the only one I heard back was from CISSA from the University of Melbourne. Luckily for me, the president of CISSA was someone that I know, Matthew Rossi – an occasional contributor to TechGeek. He liked the idea, and we both went to work trying to organising the event.

With just one month to go, I can definitely tell you that I am excited but also scared. UNIHACK Melbourne is the biggest thing that I have done (other than TechGeek, of course) and I really do want this to be a success.

And that is why I need your help. I would love for you, our readers, to spread the word about UNIHACK Melbourne to everyone you know – including your family, friends, colleagues and even strangers on the street. If you are a Victorian university or TAFE student, why not also create a team and participate.

We are still finalising the prizes, but I can tell you the winners of UNIHACK will be definitely be pleased if they won this year’s competition.

You can register now at unihack.net, and stay up to date with the latest news about the hackathon by liking the Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Disclaimer: Terence Huynh is one of the organisers of UNIHACK, and is the Secretary of WIRED for 2014.

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