Published: April 22, 2015

Students work on their laptops in the Idea Forge during Hack CU 2015.

What does it take to build an app or website in 36 hours? Judging by the participants in CU-Boulder’s first national hackathon, a lot of teamwork, creativity and energy drinks.

More than 130 students from universities across the country gathered in the Idea Forge for the inaugural Hack CU event on April 10-12. Between 9:30 p.m. Friday and 9:30 a.m. Sunday, students worked in teams to develop an app, website or game from scratch.

The teams were judged by a group of entrepreneurs, industry representatives and CU-Boulder staff members, including Gabe Johnson of Zotebook; Fletcher Richman of Spark Boulder; Alicia Gibb of Lunchbox Electronics and CU-Boulder’s BTU Lab; Greg Greenstreet of Twitter; Mark Gelband of Corporate Wellness Is; and Aileen Pierce of the ATLAS Institute.

After a science fair-style round of initial judging, five teams were chosen to present their project at the closing ceremonies:

  • GiveHub – social giving via Twitter
  • – Chrome extension to make class registration easier
  • Shreddr – snowboarding game using Oculus Rift and Wii Fit
  • Social Face – facial recognition app for making social connections
  • Personal Email – emotional email analytics

While all five teams won great prizes, from Twitter swag and GitHub plans to Boomtown Boulder interviews, GiveHub emerged as the overall winner. Team members Michael Kauzmann of Colorado College and Brian Newsom and Adrian Chen of CU-Boulder took home prizes including Dell Venue tablets, free office space at Techstars Boulder and Treehouse and Qippa memberships. 

Computer science major Alex Campbell, who founded Hack CU along with fellow students Dawson Botsford and Alex Walling, said the event helped to dispel the myth that computer science is not a creative field.

“Computer science is a field that requires cleverness and creativity,” he said. “We need to be clever to solve hard problems. We need to be creative to find a problem in the world that no one else sees. We need to be creative to make sure we're solving the right problem.” 

And the group is looking to keep that creativity going next year, with planning for a second annual event already underway. To keep up on the latest from Hack CU, check out their website or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

The organizers would like to thank the event’s 2015 sponsors, which included RedHat, Mandrill, Zayo, Twitter, Kapost,, qiqqa, Sticker Giant, GitHub, Techstars, Boomtown, Pivotal, Rush Bowls, SoftLayer, Thalmic Labs, Kind Snacks, BTU Lab, Treehouse and Major League Hacking.