Shannon Pender

Can We Hack the Future?

Shannon Pender

Imagine this: You and a team of peers need to create a working app that will rival the most popular ones on the market. The challenge? You only have 48 hours. Welcome to a hackathon.

It may sound crazy, but hackathons—short bursts of creative problem-solving where great minds come together to create new tech—are all the rage.

How does it work? Students from all over gather to build new technology, which can range from innovative apps to virtual reality software. Many events begin with team leaders pitching their ideas and recruiting engineers and programmers in the room to join them. Then the real work starts: sleep-deprived students power through the entire weekend, hunched over laptops and working furiously on code and software.

The prizes at these events, ranging from bragging rights to trips to Paris, should be incentive enough to partake, but hackathons are also becoming the modern day career fair. Top CEOs and companies from Silicon Valley often come to hackathons to recruit future employees or even make job offers. They’re looking for programmers who can thrive under pressure and maintain creativity under stress, and a hackathon is the ideal environment for this.

As hackathons have exploded in popularity, they’ve also become more diverse. The most pressing issue in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) community is that women earn less than 20 percent of computer science and engineering degrees. Recently, hackathons marketed for women have gained popularity. LinkedIn launched a hackathon called DevelopHer Hackday to promote “a stronger sense of community” for women in STEM fields. Plenty more like these are popping up all over the country.

So, if you have a knack for coding—or designing or business development—look for a hackathon near you.

Did You Know?

There are summer camps for future cyber spies. Sponsored by the National Security Agency and the National Science Foundation, the camp hopes to introduce young people to state-of-the-art technology and interest them in a variety of possible future careers.

Photo credit: Grm wnr

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