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YYC Hacks 2024 returns to help Calgary’s software and tech community grow

By Ansharah Shakil, February 1 2024—

YYC Hacks 2024, Calgary’s biggest hackathon, will be held at Bow Valley College from Feb. 2 to 4 this year. Software consulting company Pixeltree CEO Serene Yew, who is the hackathon’s principal event organizer, discussed the importance and goals of the hackathon in an interview with the Gauntlet.

“When I was a junior I had really amazing mentors, and I wanted to be able to share that as well with the new graduates who are going to be the next generation of software developers,” Yew said.

Yew is a University of Calgary graduate of Computer Science who seeks to assist in improving the way technology is seen in Calgary. 

“I wanted to make Calgary a tech hub of Canada,” she explained. “So I think for us to do that we need to bring new visibility and awareness and community events to the software developers and all the nerds.”

Over the course of the three-day hackathon, teams of hackers will create a program that aligns with the hackathon’s goals, which are then scored by judges. The theme of this year’s hackathon is how to make Calgary a more accessible place for newcomers and immigrants. 

“[With software development] I really like being able to create anything. It’s like oh, maybe I could make software to solve that problem,” Yew said. “[It’s about how to] use the knowledge that we have to make the world a better place.”

Tickets for the hackathon are sold out, but the event remains open to the public on the final day. The judging of the presentations can be seen by anybody and will be hosted at Central Library rather than Bow Valley College.  

“I would encourage people who don’t have a ticket to come out and watch the judging on Sunday, and just meet the participants, some of the mentors, and judges, and even the volunteers,” Yew said. “It’s a really fun community. Definitely come out even if you’re not technical to see what kind of software and solutions they’ve come up with. I always find it really inspiring and I bet other people would too.”

Since this year’s hackathon is partnering with Bow Valley College for the first time, Yew added that one goal was to see post-secondary students participating. 

“It’s really accessible and it’s not just about what you can produce. The entire experience of the weekend is really valuable for everyone,” she said. 

Yew will be one of the speakers at the event alongside Mayor Jyoti Gondek. Interacting with new people, participating in the community and networking are all valuable experiences that she says can arise from the hackathon, and its schedule includes a number of opportunities for developers and entrepreneurs. 

“I really like meeting everybody. We always have tons of snacks out and everybody’s mingling and making friends,” she said. “Every time I talk to people at the event they always tell me what they’re looking for, like we have new immigrants who are there to learn about the city and meet new people, or we have high school students who have interests in software development.” 

She especially recommends students to attend whatever their level of experience or background. 

“When students come and participate in events like these, not only do they get the experience and network with other people who have been working in the industry for a long time, I’d even say they get a leg up on their first job,” she said.

The first hackathon took place three years ago. Since then, its goals and reach have expanded, and this year it is taking place during Calgary’s winter Chinook Blast festival.  

“Back when we were running our first one it was really hard for me to show people the value of an event such as this [but now] I think it’s clear that there’s an interest and demand for this type of event in this city,” said Yew. 

Whatever your interests in software development, this year’s hackathon promises to be a welcoming atmosphere that will further support Calgary’s tech scene. 

“I think it’s really important to get people out and involved,” Yew said. “It’s in that kind of cross-pollination where we see bigger ideas grow.”

More information about the hackathon can be found here

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