Jacky Zhao, 20

Hacker, Organizer
Jacky Zhao
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Jacky attended his first hackathon nwHacks in high school with very little coding experience under his belt. It was his first time stepping into the world of technology outside of a classroom, and he discovered the electric feeling of making a project come to life in just 24 hours. Since nwHacks, Jacky has used hackathons as a place to spend a weekend learning a certain piece of technology, building an idea that has been on his mind, as well as a place to meet interesting and passionate creators regardless of whether they're a high school student or PhD graduate. Jacky now organizes hackathons as a part of nwPlus, and on his own time contributes to open-source materials and competes in the occasional hackathon.

Having a leadership position at nwPlus may have the time commitment of a full-time job, but he sees it as being part of a family with all of the benefits and commitments that come with it. The hackathon community has provided him with a group of people he feels comfortable around, and nwPlus showed him how amazing it is to work on a passion project alongside people he cares for. Going to hackathons alone and meeting some of the coolest teammates he could ask for has taught him that it is ok to reach out to people and ask to work together. As a part of the MLH Fellowship, he got the support he needed to engage with and contribute to the sometimes overwhelming Open Source community. Throughout the Fellowship, Jacky was astounded by the talented work of the other Fellows, and greatly appreciated the support of his mentor, who felt just like a really smart friend that held Jacky’s best interests at heart. The Fellowship taught him to be confident in his own skills and pursue what he is interested in rather than waiting for someone to tell him what he is capable of. He also realized that there are so many incredibly smart people building amazing hacks and that instead of feeling intimidated by them, it is better to learn and work on projects alongside them.

As an organizer, a workshop leader, and a hacker, he has done a bit of everything around hackathons, and such familiarity makes him even more appreciative of events. He is amazed by the number of people he has met and learned from, and he thanks the hacker community for many of his friends. He loves the forging of connections between people from very different backgrounds at hackathons and seeing everyone work together regardless of experience or knowledge.

 

Jacky takes serious issue with the stigmas around barriers for entry at hackathons, that they are 24-hour long, caffeine-fueled build-fests with tech savants stuffed in a sweaty gym. Jacky got his footing in computer science through hackathons, and believes that the perpetuation of these ideas, that attendees need lots of prerequisite knowledge or must stay awake for the entire event, totally contradict the point of hackathons in the first place: to draw in and excite new hackers! This year, Jacky was responsible for leading logistics at the beginner-focused hackathon HackCamp. To focus the event on learning and a healthier hacker culture, the virtual conference focused on learning through workshops one day, then building and hacking the other day. This structure allowed hackers to attend workshops and learn without fear of missing out on critical build time, promotes healthy sleep schedules, and emphasizes submitting a project rather than winning. Jacky’s vision for a new hackathon format was exciting and successful, with 500+ attendees, 3.2k+ livestream viewers, $1200 in donations to charities, and stellar feedback to make future hackathons more supportive to wider audiences.

 

Jacky created his favorite hackathon project at Hack the North 2020++, after learning how to work under pressure and becoming confident in his technical skills after putting ten hackathons under his belt. Jacky wanted to shoot for the moon, turning an ambitious and socially beneficial idea he had been sitting on into reality. That idea became Legist: a platform that creates simplified summaries of governmental policies in an efficient and accessible manner, with key takeaways of policies, the ability to view and filter policies by category, and even a subscription feed for policy updates.

Development was like a rock balancing act, with increasingly large stones in absurd positions on top of each other–one small misstep could bring the project crashing down. His team coded machine learning model pipelines and GraphQL pipelines, and created many graphics and animations. The process was exhilarating, especially in the last few hours of piecing together all the moving parts. Despite the huge scope of the project, Jacky and his team were able to put together a working product that they demoed and were extremely proud to share with the world.

Jacky listens to a TON of music and podcasts every day. To him, everything feels so much more colorful and pop-y with a nice soundtrack to set the mood for runs in the park, doing dishes, long-transit rides, and so much more. He spent 109,535 minutes listening to music and podcasts last year, nearly 5 hours every day! Jacky also has a blog where he posts ramblings about technology, the world, and everything in-between, as well as a newsletter where he shares interesting findings from his deep dives into the internet’s rabbit-holes. Check them out at https://blog.jzhao.xyz/.

Quick Facts

Pronouns: He/Him/His
Hometown: Vancouver, British Columbia
School: University of British Columbia
Graduation Date: 2023
First Hackathon: nwHacks 2018
Favorite Coding Language: Rust
Can't Live Without: Spotify
Jacky leading Opening Ceremony at nwPlus 2021

Jacky Zhao, 20

Hacker, Organizer
Jacky Zhao
Share this profile

Jacky attended his first hackathon nwHacks in high school with very little coding experience under his belt. It was his first time stepping into the world of technology outside of a classroom, and he discovered the electric feeling of making a project come to life in just 24 hours. Since nwHacks, Jacky has used hackathons as a place to spend a weekend learning a certain piece of technology, building an idea that has been on his mind, as well as a place to meet interesting and passionate creators regardless of whether they're a high school student or PhD graduate. Jacky now organizes hackathons as a part of nwPlus, and on his own time contributes to open-source materials and competes in the occasional hackathon.

Having a leadership position at nwPlus may have the time commitment of a full-time job, but he sees it as being part of a family with all of the benefits and commitments that come with it. The hackathon community has provided him with a group of people he feels comfortable around, and nwPlus showed him how amazing it is to work on a passion project alongside people he cares for. Going to hackathons alone and meeting some of the coolest teammates he could ask for has taught him that it is ok to reach out to people and ask to work together. As a part of the MLH Fellowship, he got the support he needed to engage with and contribute to the sometimes overwhelming Open Source community. Throughout the Fellowship, Jacky was astounded by the talented work of the other Fellows, and greatly appreciated the support of his mentor, who felt just like a really smart friend that held Jacky’s best interests at heart. The Fellowship taught him to be confident in his own skills and pursue what he is interested in rather than waiting for someone to tell him what he is capable of. He also realized that there are so many incredibly smart people building amazing hacks and that instead of feeling intimidated by them, it is better to learn and work on projects alongside them.

As an organizer, a workshop leader, and a hacker, he has done a bit of everything around hackathons, and such familiarity makes him even more appreciative of events. He is amazed by the number of people he has met and learned from, and he thanks the hacker community for many of his friends. He loves the forging of connections between people from very different backgrounds at hackathons and seeing everyone work together regardless of experience or knowledge.

 

Jacky takes serious issue with the stigmas around barriers for entry at hackathons, that they are 24-hour long, caffeine-fueled build-fests with tech savants stuffed in a sweaty gym. Jacky got his footing in computer science through hackathons, and believes that the perpetuation of these ideas, that attendees need lots of prerequisite knowledge or must stay awake for the entire event, totally contradict the point of hackathons in the first place: to draw in and excite new hackers! This year, Jacky was responsible for leading logistics at the beginner-focused hackathon HackCamp. To focus the event on learning and a healthier hacker culture, the virtual conference focused on learning through workshops one day, then building and hacking the other day. This structure allowed hackers to attend workshops and learn without fear of missing out on critical build time, promotes healthy sleep schedules, and emphasizes submitting a project rather than winning. Jacky’s vision for a new hackathon format was exciting and successful, with 500+ attendees, 3.2k+ livestream viewers, $1200 in donations to charities, and stellar feedback to make future hackathons more supportive to wider audiences.

 

Jacky created his favorite hackathon project at Hack the North 2020++, after learning how to work under pressure and becoming confident in his technical skills after putting ten hackathons under his belt. Jacky wanted to shoot for the moon, turning an ambitious and socially beneficial idea he had been sitting on into reality. That idea became Legist: a platform that creates simplified summaries of governmental policies in an efficient and accessible manner, with key takeaways of policies, the ability to view and filter policies by category, and even a subscription feed for policy updates.

Development was like a rock balancing act, with increasingly large stones in absurd positions on top of each other–one small misstep could bring the project crashing down. His team coded machine learning model pipelines and GraphQL pipelines, and created many graphics and animations. The process was exhilarating, especially in the last few hours of piecing together all the moving parts. Despite the huge scope of the project, Jacky and his team were able to put together a working product that they demoed and were extremely proud to share with the world.

Jacky listens to a TON of music and podcasts every day. To him, everything feels so much more colorful and pop-y with a nice soundtrack to set the mood for runs in the park, doing dishes, long-transit rides, and so much more. He spent 109,535 minutes listening to music and podcasts last year, nearly 5 hours every day! Jacky also has a blog where he posts ramblings about technology, the world, and everything in-between, as well as a newsletter where he shares interesting findings from his deep dives into the internet’s rabbit-holes. Check them out at https://blog.jzhao.xyz/.

Quick Facts

Pronouns: He/Him/His
Hometown: Vancouver, British Columbia
School: University of British Columbia
Graduation Date: 2023
First Hackathon: nwHacks 2018
Favorite Coding Language: Rust
Can't Live Without: Spotify
Share this profile
Jacky leading Opening Ceremony at nwPlus 2021

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