Profiles in Civic Engagement: Peter Liu and HackBU

By Laurie Silverstein, CCE Marketing and Social Media Intern

LS: Hi Peter! Thanks for speaking with me. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Peter Liu: I’m a junior at BU, majoring in math and minoring in economics. I intern at the Center for Civic Engagement and I’m one of the curriculum developers and instructors for HackBU.

LS: How are you involved in the CCE office?
PL: I’m a web development intern, which means I maintain the website as well as design marketing materials like flyers. I’m currently working on rebranding the CCE to make us look more cohesive as an organization, and I’m also working on a new website for our Bridging the Digital Divide Program.

LS: How did you first become interested in web design and coding?
PL: About a year and a half ago I decided to take a few online coding classes and I liked it more that doing my schoolwork, so I decided to pursue more opportunities to code. This led me to the CCE and eventually to HackBU.

LS: What is HackBU? How did it start?
PL: We’re an organization that fosters a community of individuals who solve problems through the innovative use of technology, and we do this by providing free resources for anyone to learn how to code. Daniel O’Connor came up with the initial idea, but I got involved because of a B-Line posting looking for someone to teach web development. We’re both web developers and didn’t see an opportunity for people at BU to learn to code, so we met up over winter break and brainstormed ideas for the next semester.

LS: What were your goals in starting HackBU?
PL: As an organization, we wanted to give more people the tools they needed to create what they wanted. Personally, I wanted to foster a tech community in Binghamton and encourage entrepreneurship.

LS: But isn’t coding just for engineers and CS majors?
PL: Absolutely not! Traditional education is a lot of theory, no practical application. People don’t have opportunities to really use their skills to build something useful, and coding allows people to create things and solve problems. There’s also a huge disparity between the amount of jobs that require tech skills and the amount of people who possess them, so knowing how to code can definitely help people get ahead in the workforce.

LS: For those who are looking to get involved, do you have any advice? When’s the next meeting?

PL: There’s a ton of helpful free resources online for you to learn to code on your own, that’s how I got started. If you’re interested in HackBU, we meet every Thursday at 8 PM. The meeting location changes every week but tonight we’re in Academic A G08. If you can’t come to the meeting, visit hackbu.org or feel free to connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!

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