Technology enthusiasts Sam Coveney from White Plains, and Lam Nguyen from Hanoi, Vietnam, were sitting in a barber shop when the idea came to them that they should use their expertise to organize a programming competition and convention for Plattsburgh State. 

This idea has become PlattsHacks, an inventor’s hackathon, a collaborative computer programming event, coming to the university this March. 

“We were like, ‘We can do it, and we can make it a good one,’” Coveney, a senior computer security major and president of the Software Engineering Club, said. 

“A hackathon is actually a pretty popular event. A lot of companies do them,” Coveney said. “Basically, you come up with this idea, and you try to implement it however you can through software and sometimes hardware.”

Nguyen, a senior computer science major, said that software and hardware, or the parts “inside of your computer”, come together during PlattsHacks to help teams of students accomplish a certain goal. 

The theme and goal of this year’s hackathon is a secret. 

Students will have 24 hours to create something either through programming or robotics. 

“Ideally we want people not to come in with things that they’ve already worked on, and that’s why we keep the theme a secret,” Coveney said. 

“We went to one [hackathon] where the goal was giving back to veterans,” Coveney said. “Some things we saw were like social media platforms that could connect veterans together.” 

The pair have been drawing inspiration from different hackathons they have attended or heard about.

he first hackathon I went to was at the University of Rochester and I was really impressed by it,” Nguyen said. “I saw people programming and doing fun stuff like competing in against each other in a simple programming competition. I really wanted to bring that experience to Plattsburgh. I wanted everyone to know they can always learn from each other and find inspiration to continue their path in computer science.” 

Coveney and Nguyen have spent the last year planning a hackathon event that is unique to PSUC, and that will bring opportunities to students wishing to advance in the technological field. 

Companies like Vermont-based IXIS and The Digital Arts Experience, located in Scarsdale, are sponsoring PlattsHacks and will be tabling at the event, which will take place March 30 to 31. 

Students will be able to network and expand connections within their field. 

“You could possibly get an internship or an interview or something like that,” Coveney said.

 Coveney stated there will be workshops, presentations and lectures from professionals and alumni. 

Games like cup-stacking will be available as well as food and possibly entertainment in the form of music or movies. 

Participants can stay overnight to hang out and work on their projects, or bring their creations home with them. 

Another goal of PlattsHacks is to facilitate a bonding experience for members of the computer science department and anyone from a variety of majors who are interested in technology. 

“I want everyone to know they can always learn from each other and find inspiration to continue their path in computer science,” Nguyen said. 

Delbert Hart, the chairman of the computer science department, has also been helping to orchestrate PlattsHacks, but said most of the work is being done by Coveney and Nguyen. 

“I’ve been meeting with them regularly, and I’ve been meeting with other offices on campus to help get this [convention] coordinated,” Hart said. “I’m also helping them to put together a letter to send out regionally to other institutions regionally to attract participation.” 

The amount of time and organization being put into this year’s hackathon at PSUC is considerably more than last year’s, according to Coveney and Nguyen. 

“I’ve been very impressed by the work that [Coveney and Nguyen] have put into it,” Hart said. “I hate to make predictions, but I’m optimistic that it’ll be a success.”

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