Behind the Glasses: Jacob’s Hack-A-Thon

Each month, we’ll be going beyond the glasses to get a glimpse of the personal experiences of our fab employees here at Whereoware. For May, we get to know Jacob McCollum, our Lead Front End Developer, a little better outside of the office.


What’s your name? Jacob McCollum
Job title: Lead Front End Developer


What is Cypher V?

Cypher V is the 5th installment of the College of William & Mary’s annual computer science hack-a-thon. Over the course of 37 sleep-free hours, teams of students collaborate to create projects that solve real world problems, improve quality of life, entertain, and more. (All skill levels are welcome!)

At the end of the weekend, the teams present their projects to a panel of judges, who award prizes in multiple categories like Innovation and Complexity.

What inspired you to get involved?

I graduated from William & Mary in 2013, and this is the third of their hack-a-thons that I’ve attended since then. It’s always a great opportunity to reconnect with my alma mater.

As a tech enthusiast, I’m always excited to see what the participants come up with! I’ve seen a lot of cool ideas come from this hack-a-thon over the years: a Roomba that uses facial recognition to fire Nerf darts at intruders, a drone that does mid-air back-flips in response to voice commands, and so much more.

What do you do as a mentor for Cypher V?

Mentors are there to answer questions, offer guidance, present tech talks and workshops, as well as help teams navigate technical roadblocks.

As the front end team lead, I’m no stranger to mentoring. There were plenty of website-related questions at Cypher V this year – things I work with every day, like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. I also had opportunities to help teams with issues outside of my comfort zone, from the Google Cloud Console to Python machine learning libraries!

What is your favorite part of the event?

Barring my own nostalgia from being back on campus, I think the organizers do a fantastic job of creating a dynamic and inclusive space for students to build awesome stuff. Not to mention the food – I especially enjoy their snack station, aptly named “Snack Overflow.”

This year’s hack-a-thon teams produced some really awesome projects, including a helmet-projected display for cyclists showing real-time GPS location and speed, a cloud service that predicts stock market changes in response to Twitter activity, and a pump that dispenses milk when it recognizes a bowl of cereal – just to name a few!