Brown/RISD STEAM’s Useless Hackathon


Why are we always looking for answers? Why does tech always need to solve a problem? Who gives a cr*p?

Brown/RISD STEAM hosted a “Useless Hackathon” this past weekend, inspired by the original “Stupid Shit No One Needs & Terrible Ideas” hackathon held back in February by ITP.

And what a useless day of pure silliness it was.


Hackathons of this nature have sprung up in various places and produced some wild inventions over the past couple months – just look at Stupid Shit Toronto, Stupid Shit SF, and the OG Stupid Shit to get a feel for what these hackathons are all about.

This year, Brown/RISD STEAM decided to join in on the useless (yet, still extraordinarily fun) action. Students hacked from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. in the Brown Design Workshop, their efforts culminating in a showcase of all the annoying/wonderful/useless garbáge that they created.


So I bet you’re dying to know what teams made.

Up first is Umm…brella by Grace Young, Jillian Cai, Kay Liang, and Danny Kim. It’s an umbrella that rains inside the umbrella for those days that you don’t actually want to escape the rain.


Next, we’ve got Pillow Talk by Anya Parakh, Raina Wellman, Tiffany Chiu, and Khue Truong. Pillow Talk keeps you awake by sensing the moment you’re about the fall asleep and waking you up with some late night chatter right into your ear.


Hat + Fly was another very cool (and very useless) team effort by Erin Cole, Ethan Mok, and Jeremy Joachim; it’s a wearable that’s inspired by the concept of a propeller hat, but doesn’t actually propel you anywhere.


Ever wanted to scream at your laptop? Lucas Kasser, Laura Blackstone, May Tomic, and Josh Roy made an effective interface that only takes screaming as input commands. Scream once to type something, scream twice to press enter? Works like a charm?


Robert Wang, Kenta Kondo, and I made Nutellapresence, a new take on telepresence in the form of an adorable robot that pauses every 5 seconds to shit out a bit of Nutella before dragging its own poop across the floor.

These creations speak for themselves. It’s important to create just to enjoy the process of creating, without the looming stress of trying to accomplish some life-changing goal and save the world. Just make something stupid and learn for the heck of it, and embrace that to the fullest.

The rest of the projects from the hackathon can be viewed right here. Check out more initiatives by Brown/RISD STEAM and make sure you look out for their other events, all of which are definitely not useless, and still fun.

Photos via Elizabeth Austin ’20, and images via,via and via.

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