Typeface, a device that helps recovering permanently or temporarily near-paralyzed individuals communicate with their loved ones, took first place at the 36-hour Hoya Hacks competition this weekend, an event that celebrated technological innovation and advancement among students.

James Pavur (SFS ’16) and Casey Dayton received an award for Typeface, along with nine other teams for their projects in other categories.

This year marked the third annual three-daylong hackathon, in which the technologically inclined come together to participate in computer programming competitions. This weekend’s event attracted over 250 student participants, who comprised nearly 71 teams. Students competed in categories that included financial technology, health, education software, beginner’s hackathon and gender equality.

HOYA HACKS The 36-hour event attracted over 250 student participants, who comprised nearly 71 teams.

Hoya Hacks was originally founded in 2015 by Taylor Wan (COL ’16) and Casandra Schwartz (COL ’16), with the goal of creating solutions to life’s everyday problems through hardware or software.

The Georgetown Hackathon allows students from all over the country to collaborate on projects to solve real-world problems, this year’s co-director of Hoya Hacks Eytan Gittler (NHS ’18) said.

“A hackathon is a time and place where you come together [as] people from diverse backgrounds and try to create a solution to whatever you see fit to solve,” Gittler said. “It is a fairly new concept — think of it as an invention marathon … [with] constant adrenaline.”

Participants are expected to form competition teams of about four people when the prompts for each category are released in October of the competition year. At the contest in January, participants create their project.

Keynote speakers for this year included Marissa Halpert and Julie Bacon, web developers at iStrategyLabs, a digital marketing company, and Judd Nicholson, vice president and chief information officer at Georgetown University.

Bacon and Halpert emphasized the importance of encouraging diverse perspectives in the technology sector, noting their experiences as women in the tech world. They also sought to challenge the common stereotypes of hackers.

“There’s a stereotype in tech,” Gittler said. “It is generally a white male, 35 years old, who drinks a lot of Mountain Dew and stays in their parents’ basement, but that is not what a hacker is. It is not someone trying to hack into the CIA; it is someone trying to create life hacks.”

Event coordinators took particular care to craft an inclusive and accessible event for all, according to Gittler. The gender equality and beginner’s hacking tracks were created with the purpose of encouraging involvement from individuals who may not fit the “typical profile” of a hacker.

Rae Lee (COL ’20) a first-time participant in the software development and beginner hackathon tracks, noticed the benefits of collaborating with students from other schools.

“Since the computer department [at Georgetown] is pretty small, it was really nice to get to know people from other schools that did computer science,” Lee said. “Being able to see their projects and work with people that I have not worked with before was eye-opening.”

The main sponsor for the event was Craig Newmark Philanthropies, a charitable group created by Craigslist’s founder, Craig Newmark. Additional sponsorship came from groups such as Google, Verizon, Major League Hacking and IBM.

The sponsor representatives aid students with particularly difficult brainstorming or implementation challenges during the competition. These representatives act not only as helpful aides in the moment, but also as potential gateways to career opportunities for participating students.

Looking forward, Gittler said that he and other event organizers hope that students continue to connect with other students and business representatives. In addition, the leaders of the event said they plan to work more closely with other local hackathons at schools like The George Washington University, and they hope to engage with schools that do not currently have hackathon programs, such as Catholic University and Howard University.

For Gittler, collaboration is the key to ultimately producing the best products.

“We really want people to cooperate as opposed to compete,” Gittler said.

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One Comment

  1. Catholic University just had a Hackathon

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