Elle Hacks 2020 sees largest event yet

A group of more than 40 dedicated students from York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering hosted the Elle Hacks competition at the Keele Campus on Jan. 31. The annual three-day event is the largest student-run hackathon created entirely for women and non-binary individuals of all experience levels.

This year’s event was a success, with more than 35 industry partners in attendance and a variety of workshops on topics such as technology, artificial intelligence, big data and design thinking.

Elle Hacks attendance badges

Further to Elle Hacks’ mission of creating a safe and inclusive space for students to collaborate, learn and grow, the organizers ran an all-day Wellness Centre over the course of the hackathon to better support the mental health of participants. The centre provided a calm and quiet place for attendees to collect their thoughts and decompress, proving successful in boosting creativity and focus throughout the competition. In addition to the Center, workshops addressing topics such as being an active bystander were held.

“We found there to be a direct relation to the focus on mental health and self-care, and the astonishing quality of projects received,” said Eyad Abu Rish, Elle Hacks co-Chair and co-president of the York University chapter of Women in Science and Engineering (WISE).

Elle Hacks participants at work

Many attendees were eager to express their appreciation for this aspect of the event. “Activities like hackathons should have spaces that are supportive and appreciative of everyone,” said York University student Jomia Pangilinan. “Elle Hacks succeeded in that.”

Participants were enthusiastic about the format and activities included in this year’s competition. “I really enjoyed the variety of challenges and the support of mentors and the team to help guide us through the hackathon,” said Maliha Hossain of Lighthouse Labs. “I found doing the demo in front of judges incredibly helpful to practice pitching and get feedback.”

Younger and newer attendees were grateful for the learning opportunities afforded by attending the hackathon. “I’ve learned more in these last three days than I have in some of courses at school” high school student Michelle Lai said. “It was my first hackathon and I’m so glad Elle Hacks was my first,” added York University student Ha Pham.

The event was the result of months of preparation by volunteers who balanced demanding academic schedules and other extra-curricular activities.

“It was a surreal moment seeing all the smiles at the closing ceremony. It couldn’t have been possible without the amazing support from our executive team, volunteers, sponsors and all the individuals who helped make this dream a reality,” said Naomi Campbell, co-Chair of Elle Hacks and co-president of WISE.

“Elle Hacks was a dream come true,” Abu Rish continued. “We were very pleased to see the amazing support from the community and from our participants. It was all worth it after the long countless hours spent planning and executing this amazing event.”

A list of events hosted by the Lassonde School of Engineering can be found on the school’s website.