For an in-depth look at this year’s MHacks, check out this Wednesday’s issue of The Statement.

DETROIT—While many people from around the nation flooded into Detroit this weekend for the annual North American International Auto Show, a group of computer science students made the journey for a different reason.

Hosted by MPowered and Michigan Hackers, MHacks — a three-day computer programming competition and expo — moved to Detroit this semester to better suit the needs and mission of the event. This weekend’s event was the third presentation of the hackathon at the University in the last two years.

Following the format of previous years, teams of four students, who may not have even known each other prior to the event, were required to brainstorm, design, build and demonstrate a piece of technology within the event’s 36-hour window.

While prizes are awarded for the best creations, many participants said hackathons represent the beginning of a transition in how colleges teach computer science. Rather than traditional lecture-style instruction, hackathons focus on the project-based learning, which many view as more applicable to real-world industries.

Engineering junior Dylan Hurd, one of the event’s directors, said computer science programs across the country have been delving in project-based learning — which MHacks demonstrates.

“A lot of schools are seeing that learning extends beyond the classroom — it’s about knowing how to work in a real-world environment,” Hurd said. “I think the University does a great job and other universities around the country are quickly adapting as well.”

Many of the event sponsors used MHacks as a venue to recruit future talent to their companies. The companies observed participants solve problems and present solutions in real time, Hurd said.

“You have to go actually apply what you’ve learned in a real-world setting, solve unexpected problems, encounter new obstacles that you didn’t see coming and work in a team more often, which is absolutely essential to the real world,” he said.

This year’s event was held in the Qube — the Quicken Loans headquarters. Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Quicken Loans, worked closely with the organizers to promote the city’s resurgence, a mission he supports through Opportunity Detroit, a subsidiary of Quicken Loans that works on a variety of restoration and revitalization projects around the city.

Business and LSA junior Lucy Zhao, one of the event’s coordinators, said Detroit was a logical choice for the event, given the University’s close ties to the city.

“Detroit is a big part of the University of Michigan identity and the Ann Arbor community and we thought it was a great opportunity to show off the city,” Zhao said. “A lot of the time, people around the country only hear of Detroit as dangerous and bankrupt — they only hear bad news about it.”

Zhao said the combination of the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend and Detroit Auto Show seemed like the opportune moment to reverse some of the public misconceptions regarding the city.

“The great thing about an event like MHacks is that we can bring 1,200 real talented, top engineers from around the country and world to this location,” Zhao said. “It’s a great opportunity to show off the entrepreneurial renaissance that’s happening in Detroit — tons of startups, venture capital and new investments — that a lot of people don’t know about.”

This year’s winning creation was “Workflow”, an iPad application that allows users to create and execute a complex series of tasks using simple drag-and-drop controls.

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