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Coders descend on campus for first-ever “Hackpalachia” event

Rylie Miller and Colleen Carow | Oct 7, 2019
Hackpalachia 2019
Photo by: Chang Liu

Coders descend on campus for first-ever “Hackpalachia” event

Rylie Miller and Colleen Carow | Oct 7, 2019

Photo by: Chang Liu

Following the lead of an Ohio University Industrial and Systems Engineering alumnus, dozens of students, faculty, staff, and professionals kicked off a first-time campus coding competition bright and early Saturday morning at the Academic & Research Center.

About 65 participants from Ohio University and surrounding schools including Northern Kentucky University, Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati worked diligently for 11 hours straight during “Hackpalachia,” the brain child of Eric May, BSISE ’15, and Trevor Bennett, BSCS ‘15, to create and produce their own product to solve a pressing problem of their choice.

May said the hackathon was aimed bridging the gap between engineering and entrepreneurship.

“Undergrads get their four-year degree, graduate, then move away to work at a big company,” May said. “In Appalachia, there’s not enough education around entrepreneurship.”

He hoped to enable students to learn what they don’t know and find new ways to move forward, thanks in part to mentoring from faculty and industry experts from the OHIO Center for Entrepreneurship and companies AWH, Grange Insurance, JPMorgan Chase, OhioHealth, NChannel, and TechGrowth Ohio.

“There was nothing stopping these students,” May said.

One team, the DataMiners, created an app to teach pre-K to sixth grade students about data science. Games within the app teach the basics of data analytics via customizable characters that users can use during the game’s various tasks, while a versus mode lets users challenge other players in a friendly competition.

“The overall goal of the app is problem solving, and to set users up for success later in life,” said Industrial and Systems Engineering sophomore Meghan Harris, who emphasized the importance of teaching young children the reasoning behind STEM subjects.

“When you do calculus when you get older, no one tells you what you’re using it for,” she explained. “We want to give students the reason ‘why.’”

Along with the help of Computer Science sophomore Mitchell Bush, the DataMiners hope to receive grants and reach non-profit opportunities.

Mentors gave context to the projects by sharing business examples from the real world – and also provided networking opportunities.

“Students have been engaged and having fun all day,” J.P. Morgan mentor Kierra Westmoreland said, “It was a great turn out and opportunity for students to seek internships.”

Bennett said that while students brought prior knowledge to the event, they arrived with the purpose of learning new ones. With no defined solution comes more room for exploration and discovery opportunities, he said.

“The event exceeded our expectations,” Bennett said.


2019 Hackpalachia winners

1st Place: BAPM
Pablo Arellano, Ohio State University
Marko Varga, Cleveland State University
Ala Elmashae, Cleveland State University
Richard Sent, Cleveland State University
Gopal Shukla, Cleveland State University

2nd Place: Team IDK
Matthew Rankin, Ohio University
Nathan Lewis, Ohio University
Trevor Rowe, Ohio University

3rd Place: bobcat++
Austin Nutter, Ohio University
Alya Elgamal, Ohio University
Scott Crawford, Ohio University