Initiative Hacks Path with SkillHack
Published: Friday, February 21, 2014
Updated: Saturday, February 22, 2014 13:02
SkillHack, the second annual problem-solving Hackathon, a problem solving initiative, took place Feb. 15 at the Fisher Colloquium, as part of the Designing the Future(s) of the University Initiative.
According to the event website, SkillHack, co-sponsored by the Office of the Provost and h.innovation, challenges student teams to “reimagine the boundaries between curriculum and the workplace and design a more connected platform for meaningful learning experiences.”
The event began at 8 a.m. with talks by Z. Michael Wang (MSB ’07), program manager for innovation and new media, and Provost Robert Groves about the purpose of the hackathon.
Teams had just over an hour to choose a focus area to hack and craft a pitch on the problems they wanted to address. The students, who were selected via application, worked to formulate ideas towards a common goal.
Helen Brosnan (SFS ‘16), director of strategic partnerships and outreach for h.innovation helped plan the event and believes the transformative goal of the event to be attainable.
“I think that was one of the positives of doing a pigeon-holed prompt was that you could create something that you know would be easily integrated in the next few months,” Brosnan said.
Although some may feel pressed to complete an open-ended project of this nature, many students felt minimal pressure throughout the process.
“I learned that I could be very productive under a time constraint. Creativity likes constraint, and I think that’s the best way to innovate and learn and produce something,” participant Josh Rivera (COL ’15) said.
Each team developed and created a video outlining its proposal to improve the university. Cash prizes will be awarded Feb. 24, and the winning team will receive $2000 and the runner-up will receive $1,000. The winners will be chosen by a judging panel, who will score the videos on usefulness, feasibility, originality, value and unique advantage and an “h.” factor, in addition to the number of YouTube likes.
“Hoya SkillTag,” currently ranked third, suggests attributing certain skills to student courses. In doing so, after taking a course professors and students would be able to add tags to their classes, which would then be searchable on MyAccess and Classy.
“The problem we had been hearing was that employers say there’s a lack of skills that Georgetown graduates have,” Hoya SkillTag member Rio Djiwandana (SFS ‘16) said. “But our group determined that the hard skills employers are looking for are being developed at Georgetown, they just aren’t being displayed correctly so we focused on redesigning the transcript not the curriculum.”
Those in attendance felt the event proved productive.
James Li (MSB ’14) and his team of students developed an idea they called the “Georgetown Experiential Learning Lab,” which called for classrooms designs to reflect real-life situations.
“If you’re a foreign affairs student you are suddenly in a situation room or if you’re studying business you’re in a boardroom,” Lee said. “Thirty minute real-world scenarios would be conducted in the specialized rooms so that students can learn in an ‘apprentice-style.’”
Ideas of other teams include a one-credit pass/fail class built to design the lack of money-managing and budgeting skills of underclassmen. This class would teach teach students the basics of programs like Quicken and Excel.
Overall, the Hackathon allowed students and faculty to collaborate to improve education from both viewpoints.
“I think it creates a dialogue that should be there to begin with. It’s just not just about educators, it’s about educators learning from students and us learning from educators, so I think it’s a symbiotic relationship. It’s mutual, and that’s the best way to go forward, learning from each other,” Rivera said.
Correction: The article erroneously described Z. Michael Wang as chief innovation officer. He is the program manager for innovation and new media. James Li's name was originally published as James Lee.