A Meeting of the Minds: Science Hack Day

Calling all hackers and techies! Science and technology have gone hand in hand for so long. Why not bring them even closer by organizing or participating in a Science Hack Day?

First off, what is a hack day? (I assure you that there is no dismemberment involved.) Hack days are usually 48- to 52-hour events that bring together designers, programmers, entrepreneurs, scientists, and creative minds alike in the same physical space for brief but intense collaboration. Some hack days have a specific focus (say, for example, science). There have been successful Music Hack Days and even Government Hack Days.

The aim of a Science Hack Day is to come up with creative technological solutions to identified scientific problems. Other than the incredible opportunity to meet people who share a passion for science from different career and life paths, hack days can lead to manifold innovations for science that might never have happened, had this intersection of the minds not occurred.

Here’s a video of San Francisco’s Science Hack Day:

Recently at the Over the Air hack event in Bletchley Park, UK, physicist Francois Grey called for more SmartPhone-based citizen science. If you participated in the Transit of Venus citizen science experiment by downloading the SmartPhone app for it, you’ll have a sense of what Grey means by this. With this app, observers of the transit could record the times of contact between the sun and Venus. This data was sent to a server that combined various contact times from all over the world to measure the distance between the earth and the sun.

We need new ways for citizen scientists to participate in research projects, and researchers with limited resources need ways to connect with and employ the network of eager citizen scientists in the world. By thinking of ways we can bridge this gap with the technology we currently have, the more cohesively researchers and citizen scientists can work together.

Some other notable projects are FoldIt, a collaborative game focused around protein folding and IBM’s Computer for Clean Water, which models new types of carbon nanotube water filters.

We at SciStarter invite you to organize a Science Hack Day in your city, town, or university. You can find open source instructions here. Make sure to also follow @ScienceHackDay on Twitter!.

Cities already organizing a Science Hack Day are listed at this site.

Categories: Computers & Technology, hackfest

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About the Author


Lily Bui

Although she holds dual non-science bachelors’ degrees in International Studies and Spanish from the University of California Irvine, Lily has long harbored a proclivity for the sciences. A daughter of an engineer and an accountant who also happen to be a photographer and musician, respectively, Lily grew up on the nexus between science and art. Lily has worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.; served a year in AmeriCorps in Montgomery County, Maryland; worked for a New York Times bestselling ghostwriter in California; and performed across the U.S. as a touring musician. She currently works with WGBH-TV Boston and Public Radio Exchange (PRX) in Cambridge. In her spare time, she thinks of cheesy science puns (mostly to entertain herself). // Tweets @dangerbui