This weekend, students, alumni, faculty and staff will participate in Georgetown’s first Hackathon, an idea development and implementation session.

“Hacking is about identifying [a] problem, breaking [the] problem down to its most essential core and figuring out the solution to it,” event co-organizer Keaton Bedell (COL ’13) said.

Registration for the event closed on Nov. 7 and is open to 130 people, who will be divided into 20 teams. Each team will design an app, service or product that focuses on transforming one of five aspects of community life: living, learning, working, playing or serving.

According to Bedell, the event will allow student ideas to be put into action.

“There’s already a culture at Georgetown of wanting to solve problems and take action,” he said. “TheHackathon will provide an opportunity to really incubate that forward at an accelerated rate because sometimes students feel frustrated with the speed of things that happen at the university.”

According to Program Manager for New Media and Special Projects Michael Wang (MSB ’07), the Hackathon is an expansion of the Innovation Summit that took place last April.

“The Georgetown Innovation Summit was about an exchange of ideas and inspiration,” he said. “This Georgetown Hackathon is about turning those ideas into action.”

Wang was inspired to organize the event after attending a “Reinvent Business” Hackathon in San Francisco, CA in June. That event was sponsored by the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Values in Decision-Making, a council that monitors and addresses global challenges.

“It was inspiring to see what groups of engaged teams — made up of designers, programmers, storytellers, business folks and academics — were able to come up with ideas and prototypes. If anything, the ideas were even stronger due to the interdisciplinary skill sets of each team,” Wang said. “That was our ‘aha’ moment. … This is a concept that could work at Georgetown.”

University Information Service Communications Manager Una Hildebrandt agreed with Wang and stressed the importance of widespread student involvement in this weekend’s event.

“The Hackathon will align with the goal of reflecting the diversity of the university community,” Hildebrandtsaid. “So it’s not just computer science students gathering together. It’s larger and broader.”

External mentors from institutions that include Teach for America, software company Palantir Technologies, innovation and design firm IDEO and online travel planning site Travelzoo will hold workshops to discuss specific skills and development.

“We hope that teams will sharpen their products and ideas by constantly getting input and feedback directly from the people who would implement these products,” Wang said.

The top four teams will win cash prizes totaling $2,000 and a chance to sit down with university administrators and companies for an idea-implementation session. Three of the winners will be chosen by a committee comprising Provost Robert Groves, Chief Information Officer Lisa Davis, Chief Operating Officer Chris Augostini, Senior Adviser to the President Victor Reinoso, Program Officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Emily Dalton Smith, Georgetown global marketing professor Rohit Bhargava and Chief Executive Officer of Irving Information Group Larry Irving after the event Sunday. The final winner will be picked by the Georgetown community through the IdeaScale website.

“I think it’s a great avenue for the community to say, ‘I see a problem, I have a way to help solve this. Or I see something I think can be better, and I’m part of the solution.’ It’s a great mentality to promote,” Hildebrandt said.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*