GrizzHacks 24-hour hackathon returns for fourth year


Courtesy of GrizzHacks

The annual hackathon returns Sept. 28-29 for another day of hardware and software building. Contestants can enter individually or in teams.

Dean Vaglia, Staff Reporter

Get ready for a four-peat. GrizzHacks is back.

The annual Oakland University hackathon returns for 24 hours on Sept. 28-29, taking over the Engineering Center for a full day of hacking, learning and collaborating. A hackathon is a competition where contestants, either alone or as a team, work on a hardware or software project. 

Kevin Huffman, GrizzHacks head marketing organizer, said there is much more to GrizzHacks than just writing code.

“We have tech talks where people will come in and talk about how to build Android apps, how to build iOS apps,” Huffman said. “Last year there was a talk about how to hack a Tesla … Even people with no experience in programming or computers or anything can come and have a good time and learn a lot.”

While festivities start at 11 a.m. Saturday, the 24-hour nature of the event means that contestants will need to come prepared to crunch and cram.

“You need to bring stuff to be set for 24 hours,” Emma Atkinson, GrizzHacks president, said. “A toothbrush, maybe a pillow and a blanket.”

Huffman said attendees should be ready to expand their building horizons.

“People should come ready to learn something or ready to try to build something,” Huffman said. “Whichever they feel comfortable doing.”

Hacker teams, though not required, can have up to four contestants. 

“If anybody wants to come with a group of friends and compete as a team, they are more than welcome to,” Huffman said. “If anybody wants to compete individually, they are more than welcome to do that. If anybody wants to come and they do not have a team to compete with but they want one, before the hacking starts we actually help organize people into teams if they have common interests.”

Over $5,000 in prizes are on the line for categories such as “best GrizzHack,” “best hardware hack” and “best first-time hack.”

The first GrizzHacks was held back in 2015 after a group of students attended SpartaHack at Michigan State University.  

“They loved it so much that they knew they had to bring it back to their campus,” Atkinson said. “They started working with the school and made GrizzHacks happen.”

Since then, GrizzHacks has been sanctioned by Major League Hacking and is now the largest hackathon in the metro Detroit area.

“[GrizzHacks] has grown in attendance for one, and … in recent years we have had more sponsors come in,” Huffman said. “The sponsors will come and talk with the hackers before the event starts and talk about what it is like working in the industry. They will take resumes, they will give advice about what they are doing.”

Sponsors for GrizzHacks 4 include Dynatrace, Little Caesars, OU Federal Credit Union, Comerica Bank, Rocket Mortgage and Ford Motor Company.

Registration is available on the GrizzHacks website, though drop-in competitors and guests are welcome. Food for the hackers will be provided. Attendees must be students within one year of graduating.