Watch Out, Tech World — NYU Students Launch All-Women Hackathon

Polina Buchak
Steinhardt senior Kaitlin Gu was one of the two NYU students who helped start the project.

 

While hackathons — events where tech-savvy people collaborate to develop new projects — are getting more common, this Saturday’s Flawless Hacks hackathon had one unique feature: all the participants were women.

During the event, engineers from Make School, Airbnb, and Shopify led workshops on iOS development, web development and version control. In addition, mentors from companies such as Teachers Pay Teachers, The New York Times, Google, Dropbox, and Facebook worked with various teams on their projects.

Organized by NYU students, Flawless Hacks targets women entering STEM fields at all levels of expertise. CAS senior Kira Prentice and Steinhardt senior Kaitlin Gu started the project in February.

“I see a lot of women entering tech who feel alienated from the culture that’s all about knowing the jargon,” Prentice said. “There aren’t many student hackathons in New York, and we wanted to leave a little mark before graduating.”  

Their goal was to create a friendly environment where women felt comfortable to ask questions and learn new skills.

“The purpose of hackathons is to learn something new and to create something you’re passionate about and proud of,” Gu said. “However, that often gets lost when competition is introduced: people start to feel like their project isn’t good enough.”

Dana Lee, a CAS sophomore who’s also on Flawless Hacks’ organizing committee, said that while hackathons can be a great way to learn about computer science, they’re not always a welcoming environment.  

“After talking to many women in technology, I discovered the main issue with hackathons is that they are intimidating places,” Lee said.

At the end of the day, teams present over a dozen different programming projects. They ranged from a Tinder-like app that matches you with the perfect takeout meal to a Chrome extension that displays a quote from an inspirational woman whenever you open a new tab.

While the Flawless Hacks team is enjoying this weekend’s success, they’re also looking ahead to next year.

“If you don’t ‘look like a programmer,’ it can be hard because so much of computer science culture is about knowing the most and sounding the smartest,” Prentice said. “My goal is to see a lot of the first-time hackathon attendees at Flawless next year, and at other hackathons around the city.”

Email Polina Buchak at [email protected]

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