Samantha Harrington
April 7, 2016

What could you do in 24 hours?

Could you hack an Oculus Rift to give doctors a better way of showing patients what’s going on in their bodies?

Could you build an app that uses a game to create a habit of recycling?

Could you get a Myo wristband to alert your friends when you’re in trouble?

The women at Pearl Hacks 2016 did.

For 24 hours over 500 women from high schools and universities around the world teamed up to hack at problems, learn at workshops, get creative with technology and create a community of women in a field that doesn’t always welcome to them.

At 4 a.m. on Sunday, April 3, I’d been awake for 22 hours. The day before, Driven had latched on to a team of three first-time hackers. We wanted to tell the story of a hackathon through one team’s experience.

Now every team’s experience is different, and at 4 a.m. some were coding and some were sleeping. I was staring bleary-eyed at my computer while keeping my ears on the conversation our team, Superwoman, was having.

“What can we skip tomorrow? Breakfast? Yoga?” Asked one of the women on the team. They were trying to squeeze the most out of the 24 hours of hacking Pearl Hacks allotted.

I glanced at the clock and counted down the hours ‘til Hannah’s three-hour sleep shift would be over and I could get three of my own.

Team Superwoman, meanwhile, had no intention of taking more than a 20-minute nap apiece.

In that deliriously tired moment, I was reminded for probably the hundredth time that day how inspiring all the women at the Pearl Hacks women are.

Scattered in the rooms around me were women collaborating with each other to create new solutions and technology.

A survey of U.S. institutions during the 2010/2011 academic year found that only 12% of bachelor’s degrees in computer science were awarded to women. A Pearl Hacks hacker from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC told us that graduates of their computer science program are 93% men.

In thousands of computer science classrooms across the country, women feel unwelcome, out of place and even discriminated against.

Yet there they were, hacking. All of them–even the high schoolers building a device that monitors the breathing of people prone to seizures to warn them when one might be coming.

These women are determined to build a better world. And I have no doubt that they will.

In the face of everything and everyone that has tried to push them out of computer science, what’s one sleepless night?