Hacking Toward a Smarter Future
Published: Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 23:02
In partnership with the Designing the Future of the University initiative, the on-campus h.innovation group is holding the second annual hackathon, SkillHack, on Saturday, Feb. 15 to address the relationship between traditional learning and the acquisition of skills needed for the workplace.
The ideas generated at the hackathon will be presented at a panel at the SXSW Festival entitled “Designing the Future University from the Inside” in Austin, Texas, in March.
“For the university, the biggest challenge is figuring out what makes this place so special and what are the things that need to be replaced to make it more relevant,” Program Manager for Innovation and New Media Strategy Z. Michael Wang (MSB ’07) said.
University administrative and faculty leadership, including Provost Robert Groves, Vice Provost for Education Randy Bass, Chief Information Officer Lisa Davis and Wang, are tasked with ensuring that Georgetown makes the right changes in order to compete and thrive in the coming years.
“We believe that the decisions we as faculty, students and staff make over the next two or three years will determine what Georgetown is going to look like 20 to 30 years from now. We think we’re at one of those juncture points,” Groves said in a statement on the event’s website.
In the past months, students on the leadership team have been working on the logistics for the event, including the processes of designing and schedule planning.
“The bigger part of planning for us, however, is adapting the model that we had last year and fitting it into this initiative,” Managing Director Andrew Hian-Cheong (COL ’15) said.
The event is centered on the discovery and integration of ideas that confront the challenges that the university is facing concerning academics versus work skills.
After analyzing how the first hackathon went, the leaders decided that changes had to be made in order for it to be more effective.
“We realized where we could have improved. First, all of the ideas were too big. It did not have enough structure. Students also had trouble telling the stories and pitching what they were solving,” Wang said.
The prompt this year is more specific and will only focus on ideas related to the integration of learning and workplace skills.
“We thought, rather than having a hackathon that tackles everything, what if we created some structure within it but also allowed students to be creative within those boundaries?” Wang said.
SkillHack is meant to act as the second event in a series, following the Storytelling Summit that took place last fall.
The Storytelling Summit was created to address the challenges students faced at the first hackathon in expressing their ideas.
SkillHack participant Dan Silkman (COL ’15) did not attend last year’s hackathon, but did attend the Storytelling Summit.
“I expect to re-envision how we interact with the university community and redefine what a college education is supposed to be,” Silkman said. “I took a course last semester with Randy Bass … and we actually had some of these conversations in that class. When I got the invite to apply, I did just a little bit of reading from the email to learn more and I was pretty inspired. I would love to look at what the university does well and what the university doesn’t do well and build on some past knowledge that I have from that class and a couple of conversations that I’ve had just with student leaders at Georgetown.”
The student leaders and administration are optimistic about the event.
“I’m excited because I think it’s something that’s directly relevant to students, it’s not like an arbitrary prompt, or something that might be taken out of your hands or something that’s not really relevant or just a random ineffective product, it’s pretty much based on personal experience,” Director of Strategic Partnerships and Outreach Helen Brosnan (SFS ’16) said. “I’m curious because I think the monetary incentive is great obviously, but I think education is something that people think about in very disparate ways based on your background and where you’re from and income and all that, so I’m curious what people will come up with.”