Celebrating Eight Years of Technica: Annual Hackathon Returns Oct. 15-16

UMD computer science major Genevieve Sampson shares thoughts on her first Technica and her current role as co-executive director of the world’s biggest hackathon for underrepresented genders.
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Before college, University of Maryland computer science major Genevieve Sampson had never written a line of code in her life. 

Encouraged by some peers, she decided to attend UMD’s Technica hackathon for underrepresented genders during her freshman year, after hearing that it was a free student-run event for anyone interested in coding and computer science—even those without any prior experience. 

“I was probably on month three of my computer science intro classes. I didn’t think I was capable of producing the cool projects I wanted to create,” recalled Sampson, who is now a senior. “But the moment I stepped into the Armory, I could instantly feel the energy in the room. From then on, I knew that this was a community I wanted to be a part of.”

During that weekend in 2019, Sampson enthusiastically jumped into coding workshops, website development sessions, a career fair and other tech-themed “mini events.” Guided by experienced and friendly mentors, she and hundreds of other attendees were encouraged to collaborate and explore creative projects together.

“I worked with two friends to code a bagel personality test, a quiz where you answer a few questions to figure out which bagel best represents your personality,” Sampson laughed. “It was ugly and it barely worked, but I demoed it and people actually came around to take the quiz. The support from other attendees not only motivated me to keep coding, but it also made me want to be part of helping foster such a supportive environment for beginners by joining the organizing team.”

Sampson continues to be inspired by Technica and now helps others experience the event. She has become an active organizer for Technica, first working on the finance team to help secure funding and plan the budget for the event before stepping into her current role as co-executive director of Technica. Her work for the annual event hasn’t always been easy, but she believes that the experience has helped her develop invaluable leadership skills and a sense of confidence in herself. For Sampson, her goal of sharing a sense of warmth and belonging with new generations of aspiring hackers from underrepresented genders has never faded.

“Technica has really taken off, especially in terms of outreach and presence,” Sampson said. “Every year, we’ve sent buses to nearby universitieslike New York University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Delaware, and University of Maryland, Baltimore Countyto bring attendees to College Park, but our transition to a virtual hackathon during the pandemic really opened us up to international participants, as well. As a result, we’re now a hybrid event that connects over 2,000 hackers from all over the globe with each other.”

“Each year, the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences; the Department of Computer Science; and the Institute for Advanced Computer Studies have been proud supporters of Technica. We feel so privileged to be able to help foster our incredible student community,” said Matthias Zwicker, chair of UMD’s Department of Computer Science. “Technica has become a keystone event whose reach is extending far beyond our campus. We’re grateful for the amazing student organizers who are an inspiration to all of us with their vision, passion and professionalism.”

Technica will be held this year on October 15-16, 2022, at The Hotel at the University of Maryland. It’s the first time the event will be held off-campus, a pivot meant to better accommodate the 800 registered in-person attendees and 35 corporate sponsor and employer booths. According to Sampson, the shift in venue was meant to improve accessibility for attendees with disabilities, a top priority for the organizers this year. 

Participants can still expect a jam-packed weekend filled with prizes, networking, career development and activities tailored to all levels of coding experience. Most notably, Technica remains free to all attendees, with lodging, food and travel covered by the event.

For Sampson, these achievements are all thanks to the painstaking efforts of the event’s organizing team, which comprises 82 members, and their mission to share the event with all who want to participate.

“As Technica grows, so do our goals. We really pride ourselves on being able to open our event to people who are usually excluded or marginalized from tech, so I always encourage people to participate, whether as an organizer or attendee,” Sampson said. “We want to continue being as accessible as possible for a long time to come.”

Written by Georgia Jiang


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