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The Scarlet & Black

Hack Grinnell College promotes hacking as social justice


This weekend, students are invited to join Hack GC’s social justice challenge. The challenge, a “hackathon”, is a student-run event sponsored by the Wilson Center that asks participants to brainstorm social justice issues and figure out ways to improve them using technology, as part of I Love Data week. 

Hack GC will be taking place this week from Friday, Feb. 15 to Sunday, Feb. 17 in JRC 101. There will be speakers throughout the weekend to help students inspire and shape ideas. “It’s the idea that we can use our technology and our ideas to [create] tools to better their goals” said Robert Ludwig, program coordinator for the Wilson Center.

Hack GC is looking to bring in interested students outside of the computer science areas. “There’s still the computer science aspect to it,” Ludwig said, “but they can team up with someone who knows how to code, they can get help build it though too if they need to.”

For Anushka Kulshreshtha ‘21, one of the student coordinators for Hack GC this year, the hope is that having non-tech judges will encourage students who generally wouldn’t participate in a hackathon to reconsider. 

“We’re trying to market it more towards the humanities and people who generally wouldn’t be represented.” 

She wants the focus for the event to stay on social justice. “Because we’re Grinnell we like ideas about social innovation and giving back to the community,” she said. 

Elise Bargman ’21 is a GWSS major who participated in Hack GC last year, on a team that earned third place. They designed an app called Soap Box that was meant to increase civil engagement within Grinnellians. This app gave students information about different campus initiatives, students who are running for SGA positions, and who the senators are.

“I think that commitment to social justice is necessary in tech spaces and I’m really glad that the Grinnell community and the Grinnell tech community has decided to take that on as part of their mission,” she said. 

Devansh Chandgothia ’21 participated last year in a group that designed the app Food Share, which connected Grinnell students who had extra meal plan credit for the week to those who needed food. Their goal was to reduce food waste and make sure students don’t go hungry. “At dining hall, they create food based on a certain number of people irrespective if that many people eat it or not,” said Chandgothia. 

He feels participating in Hack GC left a lasting effect on him. “It’s just a different setting where you’re under different pressures that you don’t see a lot. It’s sort of like a real-world example, like you’re learning things in class and here you can apply them.”


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