Women in Computer Science Tech Team’s annual all-female hackathon, Code Ada, was held this year on Saturday, October 26th. Being a minority group in computer science, women often feel daunted when attending hackathons due to a predominantly male presence. The goal of Code Ada is to provide a safe and collaborative space for female-identifying students to work on a project they are passionate about. For this reason, WCS Tech Team decided to collaborate with Women in Electrical Engineering to increase the scope of the event and provide members with the opportunity to use hardware.

This year, we had over 100 girls registered with a healthy mix of computer science and electrical and computer engineering majors. During check-in, the girls received some Code Ada swag as well as swag from our corporate sponsors, IMC and NextCapital. The girls were welcomed with breakfast and were encouraged to talk to one another to form teams and brainstorm ideas.

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Swag from our corporate sponsors

Once check-in was complete, we had an opening address by Alice and Mihika, the Tech Team Co-Chairs, during which they went over the motives behind Code Ada and details about what participants could expect in the hours to come. We were delighted to have Varsha Subrahmanyam, WCS alum and the founder of Code Ada, join us while representing her current company, MongoDB. Once the hacking commenced, most of the teams worked on fleshing out ideas and designs. We had mentors from WCS and WECE collaborate with groups to help them make informed design choices and anticipate potential hurdles. There was a brief break around midday when lunch was served.

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Participants working hard on their projects
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As hacking got closer to the end, the teams hustled to ensure they had some working functionality and a good user interface. Teams were also required to make brief five-minute presentations. Our aim was to not only focus on technical skills, but also soft skills such as PowerPoint making, teamwork, and presentation delivery. Once the hacking wrapped up , participants were served dinner and bubble tea!

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Dinner from Qdoba :)

We then welcomed our three judges: Professor Raluca Ilie, Professor Wade, and Ph.D. student Morgan Fong. Participants were judged on four broad categories: idea, design, implementation, and presentation. We had a total of 13 teams present and we can say without a doubt, each one was stellar! Our judges moved to another room to contemplate the “Judge’s Pick Award” while every audience member voted for their favorite two teams for the “Fan Favorite Award”.

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Presentations by participating teams
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In the meantime we had our keynote speaker, Professor Suma Bhat, deliver an inspirational talk where she walked us through her journey in tech and research in artificial intelligence and natural language processing.

The “Judge’s Pick Award” went to Team “Gorls”, consisting of Stacy, Sarah, Sabelle and Claire, who made an app resembling a friendship lamp.

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Judge’s Pick Award Recipients: Team Gorls

The “Fan Favorite Award” went to Team “Plant Planner”, consisting of Beleicia, Stephanie, Shivani and Anna, who made an app to keep track of plant growth and watering needs.

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Fan Favorite Award Recipient: Team Plant Planner

Special mentions were also given to “Perfect Fit”, which sends you an email every time a specified item drops below a certain price, and “Study Buddy”, an app that lets you pair up with other students on homework.

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Judges Special Mentions: Perfect Fit & Study Buddy

Code Ada has grown immensely these past few years and we are grateful to our participants, mentors, judges, keynote speaker, and everyone else who helped us make it a success. Gender equality and greater participation of females in technology are crucial, and we take this challenge head-on here at Illinois WCS. WCS Tech Team is always here to support the technical endeavors of women inside and outside of class.

Feel free to reach out to Mihika Aggarwal — mihikaa2@illinois.edu or Alice Fang — alicesf2@illinois.edu for questions/suggestions about Code Ada, technical projects, or anything at all! 😊

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Tech Team Co-Chairs: Mihika Aggarwal & Alice Fang

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