Immediately walking into the Cotter Commons you could feel the high level of focus and creativity flowing through the room. Navigating among the different groups and prototyped projects, the tangible examples of both inspiration and stress were everywhere and the high energy of the day pressed around participants, judges, and observers alike. Papers and food were strewn over tables and ideas filled the whiteboards in studios. Everyone was engaged, working together with ease, even though most of the students did not know each other well before the day started.
This is the Hackathon. It’s a full-day activity based around the concept of design thinking. Students sign up to create then pitch a product that helps teens “Forge Connections,” this year’s theme. In the span of a single day, students worked together in groups of four to come up with an idea, create a prototype to solve real issues, and pitch that product to a panel of judges.
As students met and brainstormed with the teammates they’d spend the next almost 10 hours with, they began forging connections with one another as well. Michael Carroll ’22 explained that she joined the Hackathon to try something new, and get experience with engineering and entrepreneurship. “The Hackathon gave us a chance to work within the talents we have and build a foundation of new skills we haven’t explored,” She said. “For instance, forming a business plan—many of us have little to no experience in that area.”
Students trended toward solving the disconnect between individuals and strengthening relationships. After deciding on a concept, they used art supplies, technology, and their own creativity to create a physical prototype. Later, teams pitched their solution and prototype to judges, with the winner moving on to an international competition where they can make their idea into a reality.