Event Recap — CruzHacks 2022
CruzHacks once again partnered up with us, this time for CruzHacks 2022,– its tenth year as the biggest hackathon in Santa Cruz County! — which took place on January 14–16th, 2022. This three day event remained virtual due to COVID, however, over 200 hackers attended the opening and closing ceremonies on Hopin and a total of 45 projects were submitted. In addition, over half of those hackers were first-time hackers that came from over 15 countries and 90 schools!
In line with CruzHacks’ mission of promoting social good, this year’s event consisted of 3 main prize tracks focused around social good (Best Health Hack, Best (Social) Justice Hack, Best Education Hack). However, there were also some additional categories that made it accessible for first-time hackers or for those that were focused on the non-technical aspects of technology:
- Best Beginner Hack
- Best UI/UX
- Best Golden State Hack (California-themed Projects)
As well as sponsored prize tracks:
- Best High School Project (by Santa Cruz Works)
- Best Environmental Education Project (by Earth Hacks)
- Best Project Leveraging Open-Source Projects (by CROSS @ UCSC)
- Best Hardware Hack (through MLH, by Digi-Key)
Over $35K in prizes were awarded at this year’s event. The winner of the Earth Hacks track was TrashTalk, by Ashna Khetan. She shared a bit more perspective on her project:
Every day, I would listen to my parents debate the same thing: is this item recyclable? Google searches were often misleading and inconvenient for the daily debacle. TrashTalk was created as a one-stop solution to answer the question “Where can I throw away my waste?” All the user must do is type up a quick message to our chatbot.
My first hackathon, CruzHacks was a fun, enriching experience. The project challenges centered around technology that can improve a user’s lifestyle, mind, health, and consequently, the world. After learning that 62% of Americans shared my parents’ confusion about recycling, it felt great to develop a product that could educate people for the better! Throughout the weekend, I learned how to create a chatbot, attended live sessions to learn new coding skills, and deployed a React web app to Github pages for the first time. It was a weekend full of learning, ending in a wonderful surprise of winning the EarthHacks category. Thank you, CruzHacks and Earth Hacks!
CruzHacks 2022 featured several inspirational keynote speakers including:
- Antonio Xu Liu (Manager, Special Projects DEI at National Grid)
- Ashish Airon (Co-Founder of CogniTensor, Founder of BlitzBusiness)
- Neel Sundaresan (Vice President of Engineering at Microsoft)
- Sadie St Lawrence (Founder / CEO of Women in Data)
- Sarma Velamuri (Co-Founder / CEO of Luminare)
- Tara Hernandez (Senior Engineering Manager at Google)
Tony Ma, one of the Co-Presidents for CruzHacks, shared with us his thoughts on this year’s hackathon.
“I’m proud of our hackers for putting together such amazing projects these year. Many of the projects that we evaluated were really interesting to see! I also really appreciate the inspirational talks by our speakers, and the amazing workshops hosted by our own organizers and our partnered organizations. Finally, I want to give a big shout-out to our organizing team for coming together and making this event happen during these uncertain times. CruzHacks has existed as a virtual hackathon for the past 2 years, and we’re so happy that we’ve been able to expand our reach and keep our community members safe. However, at the same time, we recognize that virtual hackathons look and feel very different from traditional hackathons. With this in mind, we’re hoping and looking forward to bringing most of our in-person components back for our event next year!”