Couple of weeks ago, I went “all-in” on my GSoC stipend for the love of hackathons to attend HackMIT at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I was uncertain if I should be going (because I had already been to Detroit for MHacks last year and ended up destroying all my freelance earnings and Hackathon winnings), but then, this time it was MIT! Looking back 2 years from now, I’d never have imagined that one day I’ll get a chance to visit MIT. So I made my decision, to go all-in and give it a shot.
This time it was just me and Gautam who were shortlisted for the event. The flight was smooth, and I slept throughout the flight waking up just to eat. It felt like I was hibernating.
We arrived at Boston, and unlike last time, the weather was somewhat hot, and I guess we were the only ones wearing sweatshirts. The city was fantastic, and that realization of “everything so different and attracting” struck me once again. Most of the crowd were students, studying at MIT. We had to walk from the station to the MIT campus, we didn’t had internet, so had to rely on other people around to show us the way.
Strolling our way, we reached the main entrance of the campus. The HackMIT team was nice enough to arrange accomodations for us. We were paired with the students in the dorm, who would host us during the event.
People at the MIT:
Needless to say, the students at MIT were awesome. Just by observing the people in Boston, I got a lot to learn from them. It seemed like everyone here just knew “the right thing” to do. Most people preferred waliking (in-fact running) for going to shorter distances (shorter in terms of miles, not meters). I could see people running and cycling in the afternoon, clearly fitness was the topmost priority of the people as it should be. Students managed their time very effectively, I was amazed to see that a large percentage of students used calendar apps to schedule their classes, parties and other activities (a sight rarely observed in India). It wasn’t like they were working really hard day and night, they were much more organized and knew their priorities well.
Enough about people, let’s go to the campus, then to the hackathon, and then to the two wonderful cities.
The campus was huge, looking at the infrastucture and facilities, it seemed like we’ve moved ahead 5 years in time. There were countless number of activities one could do in MIT, so most of the people seemed like all-rounders.
The Hackathon had a lot of pariticipants, just like MHacks, people were coming from different universities in US, and again, we were the odd one outs flying all the way from India. We had the typical American food throughout the event, which this time tasted much more normal.
The opening ceremony was lit, founders of companies like Reddit, Cruise gave the keynote, the auditorium was packed with enthusiastic hackers. And so the hackathon begins…
No doubt, there was a swag rush in the beginning. A hell lot of companies including Google, Apple, IBM had set up their stands and people were rushing like anything to grab their swags which ranged from Blankets to Trackpants to Stickers to Firery Chilli Sauce (literally anything!). We somehow were late to the party and missed most of the stuff, still ending up in getting two bags full of swags!
The Ice rink (where the hackathon was being hosted) was big enough to accomodate 1000+ hackers. Everything aside, we started to focus on our hack. Like always, we wanted to anything to win, struggling because of being unprepared, and this time it was just two of us. There were lot of fun activities, workshops going on during the entire hackathon complemented with unlimited snacks and food (when these people say unlimited, they mean it!), but we were too focused and determined to come up with a winnable product.
We made a pretty decent product at the end, but due to some chaos forgot to submit in time. Damn, these guys were so strict in their timings. In hackathons here in India, a deadline of 1pm means at least 2pm if not less. We worked it out somehow, but it definitely affected our scoring.
With all that, our dream to win an international hackathon still remained a dream. But, the competition was fierce as well. The height of innovation in the hacks was amazing. It was something that can only be seen at such top level hackathons.
The city of Boston and Chicago
We took a night’s rest after the hackthon, said goodbye to our hosts, and shifted to our Airbnb in Boston. We were set to explore Boston for a day and spend next 2 days exploring Chicago.
About Boston, it’s the most wonderful place that I’ve ever been so far. Every moment spent there felt like bliss. We went out to visit all the popular places in Boston (including the Harvard University) and then took a flight to Chicago.
Chicago, was unique on it’s own. Personally, We liked it more than New York (not exactly sure why though). The night life was lit, large skyscrapers, shopping malls, fountains, tourist places, and yeah, there was a beach at a walking distance from our Airbnb.
I can go on describing how fascinating these two cities were, and I now feel like I should keep it deserves a separate blog post.
Experiences to Remember
- The 20$ pizza: Never ever have a “Barbecue something” outside India, because by barbecue they mean the sauce (unlike India) and it tastes awful. We bought an extra-large sized Barbecue Chicken Pizza, and couldn’t eat even single slice of it.
- The Salted Caramel coffee: It was around 10pm, we were alone in this big cafe next to the Wrigley Field (baseball stadium where we were not allowed to enter), with loud happy music running in the background, and the waiters dancing on the beats (Damn, I can’t remember the song). After wandering the city countinously for like 10hrs, we were tired af. And every sip of that giant coffee, felt so refreshing that I can’t even express it in words.
- The Starbucks near Harvard: Soft rock music, a starbucks coffee, and Harvard vibes, what else do I need to say.
- The beach next to our Airbnb in Chicago: I was determined enough to wake up early and spend some time “alone” sitting at the shores listening to my favorite songs.
- The list goes on, but now I stop, and probably continue in separate blog sometime later (Phew, procrastination at it’s best).
Until then, see ya.