Cracking the code

Association of Computing Machinery helps students network in world of technology

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The Spectrum

The next Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates could be at UB.

The SUNY Buffalo chapter of UB ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is one of two computer science and engineering clubs that the university has to offer its undergraduate students. Nick DiRienzo, a sophomore computer science major and the club's president, enjoys the community UB ACM provides for its students.

In the past, the club emphasized a particular project to work on each year, such as tracking the UB Stampede, but this year, UB ACM geared its focus toward connecting students with each other and with professionals in the software industry.

DiRienzo said his club wants to bring student developers at the university together and create a network for students to reach out to for help on side projects or plans for companies.

Isaac Reath, a freshman computer science major, enjoys the diversity of ages and skill levels the club presents and the atmosphere that results from it. "I've really been able to learn from all of the upperclassmen in ACM," Reath said.

The club hosts a number of events throughout the year for the UB community. One of its biggest events is UB Hacking, a 24-hour student hackathon. The hackathon brings together entrepreneurs, designers and developers for a weekend to team up and build applications. It is open to all majors from all universities.

"The teams have 24 hours to code and bring their idea to life, and then they have two minutes to demonstrate in front of all the other hackers and judges from all sorts of companies," DiRienzo said.

This year, Synacor, SendGrid, Infotech Niagara, Bloomberg, Dow Jones and more will sponsor "UB Hacking 2013." The student-run event provides three meals a day as well as snacks and even a place to sleep. This year, top teams will have the opportunity to win up to $2,000 in prizes and free swag. UB Hacking 2013 currently has over 120 registered participants and will take place April 13-14.

According to Stephen Keller, a sophomore computer science major and vice president of UB ACM, schools across the country hold these competitions to put programming skills to the test.

"Last year, winners received iPads, Xboxes and Roku players as prizes," Keller said. "This year, we are also offering monetary trophies."

During the fall semester, the club held a "Mock Technical Interview" night, in which engineers were brought to campus to help students prepare for interviews within the technical field. The club also held a CSE Department Barbeque to help further its goal of bringing together faculty and students throughout the department.

Monday nights, UB ACM students can experience "Tech Talks," hour-long presentations by tech professionals in the community or students working on research and personal projects.

"Every other Monday, we have a local engineers come in and give a talk on a technical problem they recently faced in their work or a really cool aspect of a particular programming language they use," DiRienzo said. "It really varies depending on the engineer, but we try to keep them pretty technical."

Over the past few weeks, engineers from Refulgent Software, Z80 Labs Technology Incubator, Basho, Streamline Social and Second Bit have come in for Tech Talks.

In between each week, students have had the opportunity to present Tech Talks as well. "We've had really talented freshmen come out and talk about version controlling your code with Git, frontend development and user experience," DiRienzo said.

The club also invites graduate students to come in and talk about their experiences.

On Friday nights, members of the club get together for "Hack nights," an opportunity for students to hang out with each other while programming and learning. The club members enjoy this time to get together with their peers and learn from each other.

"What else would a [computer science] major do on a Friday night?" Keller said.

In the past year, club members have come up with apps for smartphones, drawn in mid-air with an Xbox Kinect and developed websites from scratch.

"If you want to learn how to make these and learn about other cool technological topics, come join UB ACM," Keller said.

UB ACM mostly consists of computer science and engineering majors but encourages all students with an interest in learning about programming or technology to join. The club's goal is to expand students' knowledge in computer technology regardless of their background of study, according to Keller. The group hopes to start them on a path to a career in the digital market.

Email: features@ubspectrum.com