Inspiring a New Generation of Digital Leaders
At the university level, the terms ‘hackathon’ and ‘coding’ are often associated with computer science degrees, leaving many students with an interest in technology hesitant to get involved. The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL)’s Learning Community Development team at Georgia State challenges this notion by hosting a variety of events throughout the year for students from all majors and backgrounds who all share an interest in technology. By creating an innovative community for all majors that makes hackathons, leadership opportunities and team building accessible to all, CETL engages and prepares students as they explore digital solutions and academic achievement beyond the classroom.
On March 9 and 10, the PantherHackers student organization, which is sponsored by CETL, hosted the 24 hour PantherHack hackathon in which students could take advantage of mentorship by professionals from Atlanta’s technology community, including State Farm and organizations affiliated with the Creative Media Industries Institute. The hackathon was sponsored by State Farm’s Digital Literacy and Diversity Initiative with CETL. The event challenged students to explore technology outside the classroom with a diverse group of technology professionals and create solutions to challenges facing urban communities. The winners of the hackathon were chosen based on team-work, research skills, presentation and technical know-how.
First place was awarded to a team of students who created an application that grades business performance. As a part of the Nintendo Switch Challenge, Elena Thornton, Frankie Sanchez, Kiara Henry and Mike Fanor created an application called Quantify as a way to assist potential Atlanta start-ups as they navigate business practices for the first time. “We learned to persevere and keep going to reach our goal, irrespective of the obstacles that we face. Our win was the result of a great amount of research, networking and working together within the team,” says one of the team members, Elena Thornton. It is this hands-on experiential learning that provides students with a variety of skills that can be applied across disciplines, in both college and professional settings.
When surveyed, over half of the hackathon participants saw an improvement in their coding and presentation skills and felt that they had a unique opportunity to network with industry professionals, demonstrating how experiential learning has an impact in developing the next generation of digital problem solvers. While coding, software development and app creation are important aspects of the technology field, technical skills are more impactful if they are also accompanied by professional skills such as communication and presentation skills, team-building and developing business relationships. PantherHackers challenges students from across disciplines to collaborate, innovate and develop digital skillsets as they prepare for professional success.