California Polytechnic State University undergraduate students Alexander Knapen and Nayana Tiwari and graduate student Julian Rice had never programmed on quantum computers before. But after 50 hours at the 2022 MIT Interdisciplinary Quantum Hackathon (iQuHACK), they had built an online quantum chat server that encrypts messages using quantum algorithms.
Knapen, Tiwari, and Rice had worked on the chat server over an adrenaline-fueled weekend at the third annual iQuHACK (pronounced "i-quack"), where 400 people from 57 countries gathered virtually to design and build quantum computing projects from scratch. All participants had the chance to code on real quantum computers, specifically free access to IonQ's quantum computer (via Microsoft's Azure Quantum service) and QuTech's Quantum Inspire platform.
Some needed to learn on-the-fly. The first day of iQuHACK brought participants up to speed with tutorials focused on how to use the platforms. "Office hours" were available for help setting up software tools. "We wanted people to learn first-hand that coding on quantum computers is not as hard as it sounds," said hackathon chair Carlos Errando Herranz, an MIT postdoctoral fellow.
From MIT News
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