W@CC hosts hackathon to promote gender diversity

W@CC members pose at a recent College of Computing fair. The organization is dedicated to empowering women. // Photo courtesy @Waccgt on Instagram

This past Saturday, March 9, the Klaus Advanced Computing atrium was filled with participants for the Women at College of Computing (W@CC) hackathon developing projects from as a text-to-ASL software to community forums websites. In honor of Women’s History Month, the hackathon was catered as a space for women to participate and network with other women in the compter science realm.

“Hacking started at 9 a.m. and went until 5 p.m. Participants are free to build a one day project for GT and W@CC. Some ideas we saw were community forums, so like a website where people of a similar community can talk to each other. Another group had an idea of doing an ASL application, so converting text into sign language and application for that,” said Divya Mundkur, third-year CS and W@CC president. 

This year’s event was not the first time a women’s hackathon has been held, but it was the first one since the COVID-19 pandemic. Harshika Gelivi, third-year CS and Vice President of Finance explained their motives.

“We have a hackathon to celebrate communities and diversity. We call it ‘hack like W@CC.’ This is something that used to be done in the past, but a lot of things stopped because of COVID, and we are trying to bring it back. It is catered towards people that identify as women and non-binary, but really it is just to foster community and a chance for people to develop their passion projects,” Gelivi said.

Mundkur elaborated on why a women’s specific hackathon event was important to her and why she believes that this kind of event is necessary at Tech. She emphasized that often in technical spaces, men have much more experience which can be intimidating for young women to explore the field. 

“I wanted to bring this initiative back to give that space to women in computer science who might feel intimidated, but we want to show them that there is nothing that they can’t do. This place is a way for them to create something that they’re passionate about, or even just explore ideas that they’re interested in as well as meet other women in computer science who want to build a project with them,” Mundkur said.

A hackathon event is unique in that participants only have a short amount of time to develop a project that is then presented to a panel of hand-selected judges at the end of the competition. 

“I think it is a very unique opportunity that participants might not otherwise have. To have that foundation and resources to get started on a project. And even if they aren’t able to complete it, because it is a short timespan, we just wanted to give them the platform to develop these ideas and potentially move forward if they are interested,” Gelivi said.

At the end of the hacking period, participants’ projects were evaluated by a panel of all-woman judges from the Institute’s College of Computing (CoC). Winners received instant cameras for their quick thinking and hard work. 

Mundkur explained the next steps that a participant could take after the hackathon was over.

“If people really resonate with what they worked with, they can take the next step to make it a real thing, bring the project to life and make it a product. At the end of the day I think it builds confidence, you have something to work with, you have something running. And in interviews or even when you are just talking with people, you can talk about something that you did, and it is not just a class project or class assignment,” Mundkur said.

Shirley Benedict, third-year CS and Vice President of External Affairs for W@CC commented on her experiences and thoughts about this year’s hackathon.

“Our theme is celebrating communities so it’s basically a way for most of our younger members who haven’t done hackathons before or don’t have a lot of technical experience to get experience, to create something that is applicable to the real world and not necessarily classroom work, and to celebrate the communities that they are a part of,” Benedict said on W@CC’s evolution.

Benedict is not new to hackathons. She participated in “HackGT” as a first-year where she was part of a group that developed an app for students to meet at Brittain dining hall. 

“I was a freshman and I didn’t want people to sit alone. It was for people to meet up,” Benedict said. 

W@CC continues to have initiatives for gender diversity in computer science including workshops and corporate networking events. To learn more, visit