Andrew Capshaw, a software engineer at Indeed.com (one of the HackRice 2016 sponsors) remembers the first HackRice. “There were maybe 40-50 people that first year and my team worked on a schedule planner. It was terrible, but it was inspiration for the next version.” He explains the project further, “It was an application students could use to plan out each semester at Rice. You could drag and drop each course into each semester and then look at the whole four years and see if it made sense. We won an award for best user interface, and it looked really pretty. But it didn’t work.”
Capshaw pondered the differences between creating a project in a hackathon and working on a project in a class. “There is a lot of freedom in a hackathon,” he said. “The classroom environment is pretty structured. And it is a lot easier to fail here [at the hackathon]. You can’t really fail in a class, but you learn so much from failing. In our case, we learned the scheduling problem is a lot harder to solve than we thought. We learned how to better define a problem. In class, you’re giving a problem and you have to find a solution. Here, you have to define the problem and then create the solution. In some ways it is like a startup but there is no expectation here to make money.”
Opportunities like HackRice are one of the things that set Rice’s CS department apart from other universities, acknowledges Capshaw. “It was really cool to build things outside of class because when we were are talking to potential employers, they wanted to know what we’d built. When you’ve done something on your own and can talk about it, it’s great for your resume and for your confidence. Building a project at a hackathon is a great way to explore new technologies, to learn something new that you might not work on in class. You grow a lot and quickly [while working on a project in a hackathon], because it is so focused and so collaborative. Also, you see what everyone else is developing and get even more ideas.”
“I’ve been to every HackRice,” said Capshaw, “Sal [Testa, now a software engineer at Square] pulled me into it.” He thinks a moment and adds, “Waseem and Dennis were friends too, and they encouraged me.” Waseem Ahmad suggested and then organized the first HackRice, with support from Rice Computer Science Club president Dennis Qian. Sal Testa would run the second HackRice.
After that first year, Capshaw continued participating in HackRice and he saw the participation continue to grow but some of the same projects came back year after year. “I love the fact that a schedule planner kept being selected as a project each year,” he says. “But there were really great new projects, too. Last year, someone made an app to transmit data between two phones using sound, and there was also a cool game where the player was given a color and had to take a picture with their phone of a real-world object that matched the color.”
Eventually, Capshaw’s coding experience led to his role at Indeed.com. “I never interned there,” he says. “But I’m working there because of the great engineering culture. The second reason is our company’s mission. ‘I help people get jobs’ is our motto and that’s something I can really get behind. I feel like I’m contributing to the world, helping people around the world find employment. And it’s not just engineering jobs, our goal is to get every job on the Internet on Indeed.”
For more information about internship and employment opportunities at Indeed, checkout indeed.jobs.
For more information on the largest academic department at Rice University, visit the Computer Science Department web site: http://cs.rice.edu.