May 24, 2019

Coding for a Better Community at UWG’s Hackathon for Teens and College Students

Written by Kim C. Huett

(Carrollton, GA) — The halls of the University of West Georgia’s newly-renovated Biology building will soon be buzzing with teams of students designing computer-based solutions to a community problem.

Now in its third year, plans for the popular University of West Georgia Hackathon: Coding for a Better Community are well underway.

Lead organizer Dr. Anja Remshagen of the Department of Computer Science anticipates up to 70 participants this year.

What is a Hackathon? A Hackathon is a friendly competition where teams of students design, implement, and share software for a specific purpose within a short time-frame.

At UWG’s Hackathon, a member from the West Georgia community will describe a real problem facing community members, and Hackathon attendees will address the problem through their software solution, such as a mobile application.

“Technology is not just a matter of making our life more convenient, providing more entertainment, or cutting cost in industry,” explained Remshagen. “Technology is also about improving the quality of life in our community. Many young adults are so passionate about improving this world. With computing skills you can have a tremendous positive impact in your community.”

In 2017, Laura Miller of the literacy nonprofit LIFT challenged participants to design an app to help people access essential services like food pantries and clothing dispensaries, and in 2018, Dr. Julie Whisenhunt from the College of Education challenged teens to create an app responding to mental health issues.

Hackathon teams will design and create a prototype of a software solution such as a mobile app to address the posed problem.

At the end of the event, students will showcase their products at their workstations; and teams can win prizes and recognition for solutions that demonstrate in-depth consideration of the community problem or for technical creativity and elegance.

Hackathon 2019 will include two tracks that run in parallel: one track for teens (13-17) and another track for college students (18+).

The teen participants do not need to have in-depth technical skills, as they can learn as they go, with support from team members and mentors experienced in the intuitive app development program, MIT App Inventor.

(Photo: UWG)

College-level participants, however, are encouraged to have some introductory-level experience.

In addition to the networking opportunities the Hackathon will provide college-aged participants, Remshagen noted the interdisciplinary benefits of UWG college students’ participation: “Computer science offers research and other academically-oriented opportunities for students to go beyond their studies.

But often these options give students insight into a very narrow part of the discipline only, and they do not always scale well to the professional world. In contrast, a Hackathon goes through an entire cycle of a complete software development project, requiring analysis, design, development, and testing.”

UWG’s Hackathon will feature strong mentor support from professors in the Department of Computer Science and the wider UWG community, as well as tech-savvy computer science majors (who mentor at the teen event).

Mentors will be available to work with participants to talk about design and development of software solutions.

This year’s Hackathon is provided with the generous support of GreenCourt, the College of Science and Mathematics, the College of Education Fusion Center, and the Department of Computer Science; and it is being organized by Remshagen, Dr. Jonathan Corley, and Ms. Lindsey Robinson.

Registration is $10 and includes lunch. See the Hackathon website at westga.edu/cosm/hackathon for more information about schedule, registration, location, and MIT App Inventor. Remshagen can be reached for questions at anja@westga.edu.

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