HackNC hosts around 600 attendees each year. These hackers are not just UNC students; the competition is open to anyone. People fly in from across the country, even the world, to attend.
Over the years there have been some stand-out inventions. Rupesh Gudipudi, a member of the organization’s Innovation Committee, said someone did a pollen tracker app for Fitbit.
"Basically, it just tracks pollen all around you and it comes up on your Fitbit,” Gudipudi said.
Another group made a golf club that predicts how far the ball would travel if actually hit, said Ram Vadla, finance director for HackNC.
Vadla said people completely overestimate how hard an app would be to make. He feels confident anyone with two hours of experience could make an app and release it on the App Store. Also, there are resources and mentors available to help walk the participants through each step.
“It's such a fun experience," Komirisetti said. "So, first and foremost, we take good care of you guys if you do come. We have, you know, like free food, good catered food. We have a bunch of swag: all attendees get a t-shirt, a power bank, a bunch of stickers and stuff, and above that it’s a good chance to make friends."
The weekend is especially useful for those interested in pursuing a career in computer science.
“If they’re freshmen who want to be involved in, want to explore computer science as a major, or just think about coding, this two-day hackathon is definitely a very quick way to get used to the environment and how people code,” Vadla said. "We have a lot of workshops that can teach people how to code."
There is no need to be worried about your email or bank accounts being compromised while this event is taking place. Hacking, in this sense, is the same as coding.
“We just call it hackathon because codeathon sounds lame," Vadla said. "It’s the same thing. People are like ‘oh, hacking, are you going to hack into a Gmail account or something?’ No, we’re just making a project."
The presence of the sponsors at the event provides extensive internship and networking opportunities. There are a wide variety of companies present, from Capital One to General Electric.
"All of our funding comes from company sponsors," Komirisetti said. "They all set up tables and stuff at the actual event.”
Participants will likely walk away from HackNC with new knowledge, experience, friendships and career connections, though it is unlikely that they will get much sleep.