A student works on a laptop

Excitement, creativity, and exhaustion were all feelings expressed by the nearly 250 students who traveled from across the DFW metroplex to participate in this year’s Hack UNT, an event organized by students and hosted here at Discovery Park.

Hackathons are events where people come together to find a solution to a given problem within 24-72 hours. UNT’s runs 24 straight hours. Towards the end of the competition, participants then pitch their idea to a panel of judges where they are awarded prizes based on their pitch.

At Hack UNT, students could choose from one of nine challenges, including assisting American Airlines with their customer travel experience, helping PWC plan for a cybersecurity threat or developing an app for State Farm to offer discounted home owners, renters or life insurance based off positive customer behavior.

Three students pose while working at the registration table

“It’s a great event where students have the chance to gain educational experience in an area where they may not have a lot of experience, yet,” said Gabriel Castro, a computer science major and this year’s event organizer. “It’s also a really great networking event where students can meet with employers and learn about possible internships. Plus, the companies that sponsor also get a copy of all the student résumés.”

Hack UNT started three years ago under the leadership of Zach Eisenhauer, followed the next year by Brayden Cloud. This year, was Castro’s turn. And the event is no walk in the park. It requires the students to come together as a team and collaborate with each other and with faculty and staff from across the campus to arrange for company sponsorships, work out event logistics, adhere to university safety and facility guidelines, and market the event to the wider public.

“It’s been a really fun experience,” said Castro. “It’s a lot of work and requires a lot of time to pull together. I give a lot of credit to those before me, and the team I had this year was amazing.”

A room full of students talking and meeting about their projects

Chris Panko, Miranda Apple, Malena Reyes, Ben Taylor and Jacob Woodson made up the team along with Nick Tindle, Cloud,and Castro.

“Organizing this event at such a size and scale has made me feel like a better person. It’s made me feel like I can handle more now,” said Castro. “It’s a great experience for anyone who wants to get involved and is interested in pushing themselves. I’d say do it – you never know what to can do until you try it.”


*photos provided by Hack UNT