Science Hack Day, how I love thee – let me count the ways. This was the largest Science Hack Day yet with 225 attendees! We also had our largest percentage of new-to-SHD participants this year, underlining that after six annual events we are far from slowing down the science hacking. It’s still the overwhelming, quirky, fascinating, humble and delightful event it was when we started it back in 2010 and it is truly wonderful to watch each new year of science hackers run with it. The best part of Science Hack Day is that I can never come even close to predicting what people will create. I love that. Science Hack Day is inherently about the unexpected, the serendipitous, the unlikely and the unexplored.
The Science Hackers
We had 225 people attend over the course of the weekend. We also welcomed eight Science Hack Day ambassadors to the event this year – three from foreign countries (Chile, Slovenia and Vietnam), and five from varying disciplines in science: an evolutionary biologist, a coral reef marine scientist, an astrophysicist, a planetary astronomer, and a theoretical particle physicist. These were just a few of the science disciplines represented at Science Hack Day this year. We also had people exploring artificial intelligence, climate science, physics, and aerodynamics just to name a few. 38% of our attendees were women.
You can browse through all 32 hacks that were created over the weekend on the wiki (it also notes who received the coveted SCIENCE medals!). The Best In Show and People’s Choice award went to Pool++, a hack that helps you play pool in real-time by predicting what will happen when you hit the ball (through the use of a physics engine, LIDAR, lasers and computer vision). Here’s a quick video & photo of what it looked like.
A huge thank you to GitHub again this year for not only providing a really nice, chill space for all of us to hack, but also for providing amazing catering! What better way to start an event than with a custom omelette bar? Saturday evening we opened up the roof for stargazing (more like Moon-gazing due to the foggy weather) with a 10″ telescope and the help of astronomers and space geeks. Sunday morning we watched Big Hero 6 before scrambling–not eggs this time–but scrambling to get the finishing touches on all the hacks done.
Someone asked me what at the event gave me goosebumps this year. There were many moments that did, but the best instance for me was when we were able to have a video call with the science hackers in Germany and Madagascar who were each hosting their own Science Hack Day the same weekend. Getting to interact with Science Hack Day Berlin and Science Hack Day Antananarivo, across many thousands of miles, and see the pure joy (and lack of sleep) in happening in different corners of our planet was simply magical to me.
Photos + Videos
As always, Matt Biddulph created a great set of photos on Flickr for your browsing pleasure, released under a Creative Commons license. You can also search for #sciencehackday on Twitter, Instagram or Flickr to find many more taken by some of the attendees. Here’s just a small sampling of some of the photos that I love from Matt’s collection:
Thank you to all the sponsors (listed on the right side of this site)! We absolutely would not be able to have events like this exist without their support. They help make awesome things happen in the world and you should take a minute to click on their names to see what they’re up to.
Hugs and many thanks to the Science Hack Day SF team: Jun Axup, Matt Biddulph, Rose Broome, Ian Fung, and Arfon Smith, along with epic help from Steven, Heather, Kelsey and Drew from GitHub. Creating this event is a huge team effort and many of us are balancing it while running startups and other large endeavors. Our team of on-the-day volunteers are truly wonderful – giving up some of their personal time to help make the event run smoothly – thanks to David Harris, Clinton Mielke, Tantek Çelik, Karen Nguyen, Paul Mison, this year for your donations of time to support SCIENCE! This is all such a large superhuman effort that I’d like to personally think of us as our own alien megastructure.
Thanks also to all who gave lightning talks, donated cool hardware, offered inspiration and provided amazing activities for everyone to enjoy!
Importantly, geeky high-fives and thank you’s to all of you who attended the event! You make the event the awesomeness that it is. As with every year, I’m sad that I didn’t get to spend more time with each of you, but I get over it knowing that you all had an amazing time.
I hope to see many of you again next year. Yay, science!
– Ariel Waldman, lead organizer of Science Hack Day SF