York U gears up for fourth annual Steacie Library Hackfest

Peer Parking team gets advice from mentor Justin Podur, associate professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies
Peer Parking team gets advice from mentor Justin Podur, associate professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies at the 2015 event

York University Libraries will present the fourth annual Steacie Library Hackfest in association with LaunchYU, with a theme this year of “Make a Difference with Data”.

The event takes place over two days, running Feb. 17 and 18.

What is a Hackfest? It is about spending two days collaborating with fellow students on a particular project, and bringing the project to reality. Students from disciplines, including computer science and engineering, fine arts, business, digital media and health will work together to share ideas and create solutions. Breakfast, lunch and caffeine will be provided.

The Hackfest is for people who love crunching data and creating breathtaking visualizations, or individuals who want to learn how to do those things. It’s also for people who are not necessarily programmers, but who have a brilliant business-involving-data idea that they aren’t sure how to build. Maybe there’s some wisdom hidden in someone else’s data that can help us understand the world better.

Hackfest is looking for go-getters who will hack their way to their goals.

Making a Difference with Data is about finding an existing dataset somewhere out there (or creating one) and somehow using that data to build a product or service or create an analysis or visualization that will make a difference in the world.

In addition to collaboration, Hackfest will offer unique learning opportunities, with Librarians Walter Giesbrecht and William Denton presenting on data projects. If you’ve never heard statistics sing, then check out Denton’s Sonification project, which puts statistical data to music.

Hackfest also features a workshop by Justin Cuaresma and Ethan Nguyen from York startup Bitnobi. They have offered to provide their new data tool, Bitnobi, for teams to use during Hackfest for data crunching and visualization. Cuaresma was the lead on a Hackfest team back in 2014, and during the event made a connection to this startup opportunity by meeting local entrepreneurs – a testament to Hackfest being a great place to network.

Organizers expect approximately 75 students to join this year’s Hackfest, and mentors will be on hand to offer advice to teams. The first-year computer science course, EECS 1001, has been integrated into the Hackfest as well, with participating students earning credit toward their course work.

Archived videos of the project presentations from Hackfest 2015 can be viewed here.

To register for Hackfest, visit hackfest.library.yorku.ca/2016/.