UCSC student named one of the 50 best hackers of 2022

Mansi Saini’s hackathon journey began after she read about an upcoming hackathon in a Girls Who Code alumni email newsletter. Having only taken a two-week Girls Who Code web development camp to learn the basics of HTML and CSS, she decided to dive in and see what the hackathons were all about, hoping to pick up some new technical skills and meet new people in the field. road.

Now two years, 14 hackathons, and countless mentoring and leadership roles later, Saini, a sophomore majoring in computer science: computer game design at the UC Santa Cruz Baskin School of Engineering, has been named one of the top 50 hackers of 2022. by Major League Hacking (MLH). Each year, MLH, the official league of student hackathons and the world’s largest community of beginning developers, selects 50 recipients from a pool of over 150,000 active community members worldwide for their exceptional contributions to the ecosystem. technology and STEM education.

“To be selected is to have your achievements recognized as the top percent of the top percent of today’s new technologists,” said Nick Quinlan, MLH’s chief operating officer.

Saini was notably recognized for her commitment to supporting new hackers through various leadership and mentoring roles she has held.

“I was a bit surprised to learn that I had won this award after entering the hackathon community about two years ago, but also proud to see how far I’ve come with my hackathon journey,” said Saini. “I remember thinking hackathons were about breaking into computers, but at my first hackathon, I quickly learned that it wasn’t. I started out knowing very little about coding and now I have all this experience with front-end and back-end technologies, cloud products, and more. My participation in hackathons has fueled my desire to pursue a computer science degree and a career in technology.”

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Tapping into new passions

Saini competed in her first competitive hackathon during her senior year of high school. With minimal coding experience, she and her team of friends developed a website to help middle and high school students explore a wide range of career paths and prepare for college.

Shortly after completing her first hackathon, Saini joined TechTogether, a nonprofit organization that hosts programs and hackathons across the country with a focus on building an inclusive hacking community for women and non-binary people.

“TechTogether is one of the most inclusive communities I have ever been a part of. I have had the opportunity to develop strong relationships with industry professionals and students, some of whom have become good friends of mine,” explained Saini, who is currently a TechTogether mentor and works primarily with first-time hackers.

It was through TechTogether that Saini learned about the MLH community. In addition to participating as a hackathon competitor, she has also taken on the roles of a coach, mentor, judge, and organizer within the MLH organization. When Saini discovered her passion for computing and worked to develop a technical skill set, she wanted to find a way to give back to the hackathon community. One of those ways has been to help others, especially new hackers, find their footing and develop their computing skills.

When asked what advice he has for students who want to participate in hackathons but lack the confidence to get started, he said, “Just go ahead. Hackathons are for everyone, regardless of their educational background.”

A community of women engineers

When it came to choosing a university to attend, finding a community of women engineers was one of the most important factors for Saini.

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“One thing that set Baskin School of Engineering apart from the other engineering schools I’ve gotten into was the number of women studying computer science,” Saini explained. “It is important to me to be part of a diverse and inclusive community.”

Saini settled on Baskin Engineering Computer Science: The Computer Game Design Program because he wanted to combine his passions for programming and graphic design.

“My entire freshman experience at UC Santa Cruz was wonderful, from being surrounded by a welcoming community to meeting new friends inside and outside of my program, I enjoyed every moment of it,” said Saini. “In addition to my syllabus and all the work I’ve done around hackathons, I’m also involved with the UCSC Adventure Rec program. Every outdoor activity I get involved in is a great way to decompress my busy schedule and help recharge my creativity.

Over the next several years, Saini plans to continue participating in hackathons across the country as a competitor, judge, coach, and mentor, and to explore the field of human-computer interaction.

“It’s amazing to have such a strong engineering community here at UCSC. I was very intimidated being one of the few tech girls in the room,” Saini said. “But that fear is gone at Baskin. They are all very friendly and always ready to help you succeed.”