Corn Hacks competition 2020

This year’s CornHacks will attempt to host a zero-waste event for its more than 150 expected participants.

The third annual CornHacks programming competition at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will take place on Saturday and Sunday. It will focus on conservation and sustainability through sustainable dining efforts and a competition dedicated to the best programming or coding project that utilizes or promotes sustainability.

The event will feature compostable utensils and dining ware, reusable water bottles and all food waste will be composted after the event. The Association of Students of the University of Nebraska’s Green Fund, which funds grants for student-led projects encouraging sustainability on campus, provided $1,920 for the initiative and a separate competition track focused on sustainability.

“There’s just a ton of waste, whether it be plastic waste or food waste, so we started thinking about different ways we could implement reducing that waste,” Parker Segal, senior software engineering major and director of CornHacks, said. “We also think it’s really important for our profession to have these kind of ethical considerations tied into the work that they do.”

CornHacks is open to any individual who is currently an undergraduate and over the age of 18. Attending a University of Nebraska school is not required. The event is over 23 hours long, and participants organize into teams of four to produce a coding project that can be entered in the overall competition, as well as more specific track competitions.

While this year’s CornHacks has a focus on sustainability, the competition mostly remains similar to other years. Segal said CornHacks began in 2018 and is completely funded through sponsorships. There will be an overall tiered competition for the best project, along with smaller competitions with separate guidelines that are regulated by the sponsors, according to Segal. Some teams have already registered, but registration remains open until the event begins.

Ethan Bütt, junior software engineering major and secretary of the Computer Science and Engineering Student Advisory Board, helped organize the event. He said there are few limits placed on what type of project coders can submit.

“We want people to have creativity and do whatever they want,” Bütt said. “We try to discourage the idea that you have to pick a specific type of thing to do well.”

Bütt said many of the competitors have backgrounds or majors in software engineering or computer science but no experience is necessary. The intent of CornHacks is to have fun and learn new things. 

To build on the event’s purpose, it will feature different seminars, called “TechTalks,” throughout the weekend so attendees can learn more about related subjects. 

“That’s one of the great things about a hackathon,” Bütt said. “Is that they’re really supposed to be for everyone.”

Participants who need a break from their projects can participate in activities such as a Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournament and an hour-long yoga session.

“I think [yoga] will be really cool and a different type of vibe,” Segal said. “We’ve never had anything like that before.”

With a change in venue from Avery Hall to the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts, both Bütt and Segal said they are looking forward to the event and seeing what the competitors produce.

“CEMA is much more of an open platform,” Bütt said. “There’s no walling, so it’s really a creative space.”

The competition begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 18, and the awards ceremony will wrap up by 1 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 19. 

On Friday, Jan. 17, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts, there will be an official team-matching available for teams missing a member or for individuals looking for a team to join. Segal said it’s not too late to register even after Friday, and interested students can come on the day of if they wish.

“We really want to see ideas from different professions,” Segal said. “We aim to see every participant at this event learn something new, regardless of their major.”

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