Code, nodes, and Trudeau at Hack the North


The growing clout of the Waterloo-based hackathon, Hack the North, was on clear display this weekend when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke at the opening ceremony.

The PM spoke highly of the event, saying, “Hack the North will give you a chance to not only let your imagination run wild, but to meet other people who can help you solve problems.”

Mr. Trudeau went on to praise the diversity of the event and the prowess of the Canadian tech sector as a whole. He concluded by calling the assembled hackers “natural leaders” who would be crucial to Canada’s future. The Hagey Hall theatre was packed with hackers and media alike, eager to hear the PM speak. Trudeau departed shortly after his speech, but not before making a quick visit to the overflow room, much to the delight of those inside.

His speech was followed by a chat with the CEO of  digital currency company  21.c, Balaji Srinivasan who, to the surprise of many, spoke against “startup culture.”

Instead, he advised either working in a large tech company in an innovative capacity or moving to a country with low-cost-of-living in order to build a venture on a budget.

Following the talks, participants made their way to the E5 atrium, where a variety of tech companies were set up and on the hunt for new talent. The corporate participants were diverse in nature, ranging from Loblaw Digital to the Canadian Armed Forces, offering both job opportunities and a substantial stash of swag. The companies provided challenges as well, inviting attendees to use their products and technologies to solve real world problems.

After 36 hours of hacking, the participants brought their work before a judge, who selected the finalists. Hack the North does not rank finalists in a traditional manner, rather all finalists are considered winners while individual prizes may be given out for the use of certain technologies.

One of the finalists included a team comprised of Waterloo students and a McMaster student that tackled a pressing

problem on campus: bike theft. Their project was called Loc8r, a hardware hack that used GPS tracking t0 send live signals to phones and so, track stolen bikes.

“Honestly, I feel like this project is a really good balance of our skills because each of us took lead on one particular aspect,’ said Abhayraj Jain, the Mechatronics Engineering student from McMaster.

Another team member, Waterloo Systems Design student Mickey Dang added, “…most importantly, it was a good learning experience because we all got to realize certain things on the parts we worked on.”

As Prime Minister Trudeau said, Hack the North is a brilliant example of the tech talent to be found in Canada. It is therefore all the more fitting that Hack the North happens here at the University of Waterloo, further cementing the university’s reputation for excellence here and abroad.

Photo taken by Ben Paul