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Full Stack At Brown’s First Hackathon, Datathon, And CTF: Hack@Home

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by Charlotte Whatley and Emily Wu 

Full Stack at Brown (FSAB), Brown University’s software engineering club, hosted its very first virtual hackathon, Hack@Home, on October 9-12, 2020.

Hack@Home brought together over 300 high schoolers and college students over a four-day weekend of hacking. The event combined all the best aspects of a hackathon, datathon, and Capture the Flag (CTF). The prize categories invited students to create web applications, hardware hacks, and applications that used Google Cloud technology. Hackers had freedom in the languages, frameworks, and technologies they could utilize, resulting in unique projects like an NSFW Discord bot, a 3D coronavirus visualization tool with an embedded RNN model, or an application for finding and promoting small businesses. Datasets were also provided by Brown CS Professor James Tompkin and Josh Butler ‘04’s company, Kinetic Eye, respectively focusing on social verification with deep fakes and detecting body poses in warehouse video data. Finally, Hack@Home worked with TryHackMe, a cybersecurity learning platform, to provide 20 capture the flag challenges. The challenges covered Web Application Security, Assembly and Reverse Engineering, Steganography, Linux Privilege Escalation, and Scripting. Brown University student Zachary Espiritu ‘21 won the grand prize in the CTF, capturing 46 total flags! 

FSAB President John Roy ‘22 and FSAB engineer Clara Guo ‘23 were the tech leads for website development, and worked with RISD ID students Yilan Sun ‘21 and Trent Lowe ‘21 to create the 3D website for Hack@Home. Design Lead Yilan Sun thought of using an 8-sided house, where participants could enter the house and directly interact with components of the website. Yilan and Trent worked tirelessly to produce every asset in the 3D house model from May to October, and along the way put assets to use for promotional materials and the pre-released 2D version of the website. Once the entirety of the model was complete, John and Clara created the 3D website that is currently on display. Be sure to check it out, and try interacting with the different objects in each room. 

In the weeks preceding the event, the Hack@Home workshops team released a series of workshops covering topics such as web development, databasing, computer security, and 3D modeling, ranging in difficulty from beginner to intermediate. This gave participants an opportunity to expand their skills in preparation for the event, learn something new, and get introduced to topics in computer security for the CTF with TryHackMe exploit walkthroughs. The weekend of the hackathon, John Tambunting ‘17, CEO of Pangea.app, helped the Hack@Home hackers out by releasing a complete mobile app starter kit.

Throughout the weekend of the hackathon, the organizers of Hack@Home decided to run a charity livestream, featuring tech talks and panels by Brown University professors, students, and alums. We ran 5 separate live streams through Facebook live, racking up over 1,000 viewers. Proceeds of the charity livestream went towards education, Black Lives Matter, and COVID-related charities and nonprofits. You can find the list of charities we supported here

Outside of the competition, participants could hop on the Brown University Minecraft Campus and play a game of Spleef and TNT, or check out the build a house for the Minecraft Cribs competition. Additionally, hackers could take advantage of the various mini-games and icebreakers hosted on the Hack@Home Discord and win prizes and meet other participants. Activities included a special capture the flag intro presented by US Air Force, Bob Ross painting competitions, and a workshop on Big Data & ML presented by Google Cloud. 

Sponsors for Hack@Home this year were Facebook, Bloomberg, Google Cloud, Citizens Bank, TryHackMe, Kinetic Eye, Wolfram Language, Pangea, OnShape, and Sticker Mule. Participants could win incredible networking opportunities in some of our sponsor companies, or prizes like a $50 Amazon gift card, an Intel Release Depth Camera, or a Google Nest Mini. 

The Hack@Home team thanks Brown CS Professor Tim Nelson for mentoring and guiding us through producing the event, and our judges, Brown CS Professors Stephen Bach, Tom Doeppner, Kathi Fisler, Don Stanford, and James Tompkin for lending their time to us. They are also especially grateful to Brown University graduate and PhD students Omer Dai, John Wrenn, Emmie He, and Matthew McAvoy for stepping in as additional phase 1 judges.

To learn more about the hackathon, visit hackathome.org.

To see the winners of Hack@Home, visit https://hack-home.devpost.com.

If you interested in learning more about FSAB or joining the club, visit https://www.fullstackatbrown.com

For more information, click the link that follows to contact Brown CS Communication Outreach Specialist Jesse C. Polhemus.