March 28, 2020

Hackathon 2019: Coding for the community

The university will host Hackathon, a two-day event Nov. 8 and 9 where high school students from around Columbus come to work with current students, alumni, and other professionals to create a mobile app that tackles a particular social issue.

The event is a partnership with TechCorps, a non-profit organization that works to provide K-12 students with opportunities for early learning and experience in the areas of computer science and information technology. 

TechCorps is responsible for the overall organization of the event, while the university provides the space for the event and recruits student volunteers.

High school students participating in Hackathon 2018. Photo provided by Paula Federico.

On day one, the high school students chosen to participate in Hackathon are introduced to the tools they will be using to develop the app. On day two, students work in teams of five to develop the app in a limited amount of time. 

Each team is assigned a mentor to assist them throughout the day, which are usually current computer science majors who volunteer to do so.

Professionals from the community also attend the event to judge the final presentations on day two, which take place at 2:45 in the afternoon. This is when the judges will choose the winners for the best apps developed.

In addition to providing the participating high school students with valuable computer science experience, Hackathon also provides benefits to the volunteering computer science majors who volunteer to help out.

Student and Alumni Volunteers at Hackathon 2018. Photo provided by Paula Federico.

“It gives them the opportunity to engage with the community … and put into practice the skills that they are learning in our program,” Dr. Paula Federico, associate professor and department chair of mathematics, computer science, and physics at the university, said.

This is the second year that the university has hosted the event. The social issue that the participants had to tackle with the development of their app was the opioid epidemic. 

One of the apps developed at last year’s event was meant to provide users of the app with a convenient way to speak with a support coach during an opioid-related crisis or get connected with helpful resources. 

“This year the theme, or the goal, is not known until Hackathon starts,” Federico said. “So I don’t know what it’s going to be this year, but it’s always some theme related to the community, problems in the community, or social issues.”

Last year about 75 high school students competed in the Hackathon event, which is the total number of spots available during the event. As of Nov. 1 there were 79 applicants and 61 confirmed participants for this year’s event, which will likely change before the event kicks off on Nov. 8. 

Hackathon will be taking place in Ruff Learning Center.

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