Students develop games for 30 hours at hackathon event

Daisy Aguilar

The Sacramento State Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers hosted a hackathon event Nov. 9 and 10 that allowed students to build games and programs for 30 straight hours.

Havok, a provider of interactive software and services for Intel Corporation, gave students their first opportunity to use Project Anarchy, a free end-to-end game engine for mobile developers.

“[Havok] was actually testing [Project Anarchy] out to see how students interacted with it and to improve the engine itself,” said mechanical engineering major Yarima Poveda, 19.

The games created during the hackathon will be used by Havok as future samples. Havok software has been used in more than 500 games, such as Halo 4 and Call of Duty.

“This hackathon is for enabling students to work together,” said Paul Steinberg, Intel Software’s community manager. “It’s a space to allow students to succeed and learn.”

Of 117 applicants, only 40 students were chosen to participate. Although the hackathon was not a competition, prizes and certificates were handed out to the participants.

“We decided on 70 percent of people who knew what they were doing and 30 percent who weren’t so strong in programming,” said Peter Avalos, 20, computer engineering major and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers webmaster. “We tried getting a broader range of different people.”

Although the majority of students were from Sac State, there were also students from UC Davis, UC Berkeley and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

Prior to the event, computer engineering major Luis Ramirez, 20, said his biggest challenge would be staying up the entire 30 hours and completing a game.

“It’s going to be hard, since most of the projects here at Sac State require more time than 30 hours when they’re smaller projects,” Ramirez said.

Many students were able to complete their games in less time. Tutorials were offered on Havok’s website to prepare students on how to use Project Anarchy.

“The demo that was used for the students here was so good that they were actually able to compile and understand the engine really fast,” Poveda said. “They were able to build games really quick. This was a success.”

While some students prepared by watching the training videos, others reviewed educational software.

Computer science major Xavier Lamphere, 18, said he arrived at the hackathon well-prepared.

“I went through all of the first two sections of courseware that cover level design and animation,” Lamphere said. “I made my own practice levels to prepare for this.”

Although students were allowed naps, many prepared to stay awake throughout the entire time.

Computer engineering major Angel Javier Figueroa, 18, stayed up the night before making his 5-foot cheat sheet.

“I went through all night making a cheat sheet,” Figueroa said. “I ran out of paper, so I used paper towels. This is all basic level designs.”

While this event was the first hackathon for some students, others had participated before.

Electrical engineering major Thoa Nguyen, 22, said this was her second hackathon and believed it was more difficult than the first.

“I had never used the tools from Project Anarchy, and I didn’t have much experience,” Nguyen said. “But overall it was an awesome experience.”

Students said although it was a challenge using the new engine, it was a learning experience they would be willing to participate in again.

“[The goal] was to expose people to something different, to give them a sense of not always being graded on something and to get people out of their comfort zone,” Avalos said.