One thousand of the world’s brightest students will spend 36 hours at the University of Waterloo this weekend participating in Hack the North - Canada’s largest international hackathon.

Students from 100 different institutions will be in the Engineering 5 building from September 19-21 to take on competitors from the U.S., Britain, China, Netherlands and Brazil.

Hack the North, the brainchild of Waterloo undergrad students, covers expenses for participants through sponsorship support.

Kevin Lau, a second-year systems design engineering student, says the co-founders of Hack The North are part of the hackathon community and decided it was time to bring the event north of the border.

“We’ve experienced first-hand the transformative experience that a hackathon can bring about through learning, collaborating and networking opportunities,” explains Lau.

Top Row (Left to Right): Calvin Chan, Kaustav Haldar, Jean Wu, Karina Mio, Joanne Lau. Bottom Row (Left to Right): Kartik Talwar, Kevin Lau, Liam Horne, Valentin Tsatskin, Matthew Kuzyk

Venture capitalist and Waterloo grad will attend

Venture capitalist and Waterloo Engineering graduate, Chamath Palihapitiya, will give the keynote address and Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator, will participate in a “fireside chat” with Pearl Sullivan, dean of Waterloo Engineering. 

Other events include “office hours” that will be held on Saturday for participants to spend 10 minutes meeting with successful entrepreneurs, including Eric Migicovsky, a Waterloo systems design engineering graduate and the founder of Pebble Technologies.

Along with its size, Hack the North is unique because it doesn’t have a specific theme and the top prizes haven't been announced in order to avoid placing parameters on what participants develop, points out co-founder Liam Horne, a Waterloo computer science student.

Create something awesome

It doesn’t matter who you are or what your experience is,” says another co-founder Kartik Talwar, a third-year Waterloo science student. “You just need to show up and create something cool or awesome.”

The definition of just what’s cool or awesome will likely be vastly different for the teams of up to four members.

“A lot of people will create something just for fun and to make people laugh,” says Lau. “At the other end of the spectrum we’ve seen viable and successful products piloted at hackathons.”

With any luck, Waterloo Engineering's entrepreneurial environment will rub off on Hack the North participants. The Faculty’s startup culture has helped create more than 500 companies, including Pebble Technologies, Clearpath Robotics, Desire2Learn, Infusion and Thalmic Labs.