Design-oriented hackathon offers canvas for student creativity

Danielle Ransom

Students will learn how to create graphics for logos, games and apps at Freetail Hackers’ first design-oriented hackathon, Design Hacks.

The event will be held in the Gregory Games Room at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

Hackathons are open to all students, no matter their academic background or skill level. They can come equipped with a current problem they want to solve, or they can share an new idea.

“By providing an empty canvas for participants, hackathons allow students to use their creativity and ingenuity to find weird and crazy solutions to everyday problems,” said Prakhar Garg, computer science senior and co-lead director of Freetail Hackers.

In these themed hackathons, teams of students collaborate to transform their ideas into reality. Freetail Hackers aims to provide an open, collaborative space where students can work together with support from mentors or peers.

Hayley Call, computer science junior and outreach director of Freetail Hackers, said the purpose of their organization is to unite students with a common goal, such as programming.

“We provide events that allow individuals to meet other passionate people, learn new skills and build upon their ideas in a comfortable, accessible environment,” Call said. 

At Design Hacks, students will learn to create logos, websites, app mock-ups, 3-D models and other tech products. 

“To our knowledge, graphic designers at UT have never before had an opportunity like Design Hacks to apply their skills and grow their interests,” Garg said.

Freetail Hackers’ focus is to empower students who are passionate about technology and grow the tech community at UT, according to their Facebook page. They host hackathons where students can work on projects such as building apps, making websites, designing software and coding. 

Hackathons prepare students to use their academic knowledge and apply it to real-world settings. Students have the opportunity to present their work to fellow students, faculty or company representatives at the event. 

Megan Chen, computer science sophomore and tech organizer for Freetail Hackers, said Freetail prepares students for life after graduation.

“Hackathons see students literally using their learnings from classes, side projects, hobbies and passions and applying them to see an idea come to life,” Chen said. 

Freetail Hackers differentiates themselves from start-up incubator programs, such as the Student Entrepreneur Acceleration and Launch program under the Austin Technology Incubator Institute. Students can create viable products, but the focus is on student curiosity. 

“The very culture of hackathons has long opposed the idea of building something for the sake of commercializing it,” Garg said. “At their very core, hackers are making something that fulfills their question of ‘I wonder what would happen if I did this?’”