A Student Hackathon for a Better Tomorrow

Students come together to solve global challenges at HackNYU

Cat Richardson

Forty-eight hours. Five hundred hackers. Three countries. Every year, students from high schools, colleges, and graduate schools around the world gather at NYU’s New York City, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai campuses for HackNYU. Even more impressive? At this student hackathon, teams develop technology that improves lives—and NYU undergraduates run the show. In 2019, students hacked in four different tracks: sustainability, education, financial empowerment, and health and well-being.

Three students, who are wearing purple-branded NYU shirts in support of the event, at HackNYU. Two students sit with computers in front of them and the third student stands and holds his laptop. Around them are other students who are also competing.

Three Big Wins for NYU

Teams led by NYU students were big winners in 2019. For example, WalletWorth, a winning entry in the financial empowerment track, helps people improve their financial literacy. Users can not only compare and understand savings options but also learn about investing. BlankSide scans papers using artificial intelligence. Then, it determines whether they should be reused, recycled, or shredded if they contain sensitive information. Its ability to save trees and protect privacy made it a winner in the sustainability track. Verbal Coding took home a win in the education track. It teaches users to code through simple and more natural-feeling language that can be spoken instead of typed. This makes it ideal for beginners as well as people with visual impairments.

Two students sitting at a table and working together on their laptops.
A close-up of a robotic creation and two hands. One hand holds a controller and the other gestures to the robot.

Learning and Networking

Since HackNYU is many participants’ first student hackathon experience, it is also an opportunity for students to learn. Over the course of the weekend, NYU faculty and visiting experts lead workshops on everything from Google Cloud Platform to lean business modeling. Industry giants like IBM, Dell, Google, JPMorgan Chase, and Facebook sponsor HackNYU, making it an ideal networking opportunity for all participants.

A large group of HackNYU participants sitting at long tables.

On the final afternoon, after two days of intense coding, teams presented their ideas to one another and a panel of judges in a science fair–style setup. This year, 21 winning teams walked away with over $28,000 in cash and prizes. But even more teams left HackNYU with new skills and the motivation to develop their ideas into the next big thing.