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Ideas Come to Life at OSU’s HackOHI/O

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Ideas Come to Life at OSU’s HackOHI/OPhoto from HackOHI/O.
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A hackathon is a place where ideas become tangible, strangers become teammates, and students become creators. OHI/O, The Ohio State University’s own hackathon, is just one of the many that have cropped up over the years as the central Ohio tech scene has continued to grow. With more appearing at the high school level and tailored to specific interests, there are limitless ways for the tech enthusiast to engage with their passion in a meaningful way.

Typically, people have associated events like hackathons with software development, assuming a degree in computer science to be necessary for participation. But, as the technology sector diversifies, students are learning to apply their skills in different and unexpected ways.

“What we want to do is make sure that kids realize that hackathons are not just for programmers,” said Chris Slee, HackOHI/O judge. “Hackathons are for anyone who can sort of come up with an idea or a product they might want to make, and then the resources are there to actually build those kinds of things.”

Last year’s hackathon saw the largest attendance in HackOHI/O history. Since the event’s launch four years ago, the number of participants has increased from just 100 in 2013 to 750 in 2016. Winning teams came up with ideas ranging from a community review website to raise awareness around accessibility for people with disabilities, to a software hack offering a visual representation and audio compression that helps the hearing impaired, to a coffeemaker that can answer questions and load its own filters and grounds.

For those interested in hardware, MakeOHI/O offers a venue for students to create and test their own products. The Coolest Cooler, one of the winners from last year’s makeathon, could play music, charge your phone, and jumpstart your car.

“[The hackathons] are really there to go, ‘Hey, if you have this problem, how would you think about solving it?’ and giving them the basic tools to go out and solve that problem,” Slee said, “and sometimes at hackathons, you don’t even give them a problem; you give them a theme, and they go find problems on their own and try to come up with their solutions. And that’s what we want the kids to be doing is thinking for themselves.”

As students learn to apply their skills in real, tangible ways, some have successfully created products that are usable today. One application from two hackathons ago, Platz, is currently used on the OSU campus to facilitate game day parking.

“If a student who lives off campus has a parking place to sell, they create a platform and put it on the market place, so people looking for parking can scan for parking spots,” said Caitlyn Horn, HackOHI/O organizer.

Available only in the Columbus area, Platz allows users to buy and sell parking spots, and sends notifications as spots become available.

Students have the opportunity to take their ideas to the next step at each hackathon, where tech professionals are available for judging, mentorship, and networking. These relationships, as well as those developed between peers, are what Horn sees as the most valuable takeaways from events like HackOHI/O.

“Aside from any concrete app or anything that gets started at the hackathon, I think the connection that these students are making with their other classmates, and getting to know people in a new way, will really benefit them in their future careers,” she said. “Everyone will go on to work somewhere some day, so making those connections now is a really great way to continue your network for the future.”

This year’s HackOHI/O event takes place over 24 hours between Saturday, October 21 and Sunday, October 22.

For more information, visit hack.osu.edu/2017

Our new technology series is presented by our partners in the City of Dublin.

Dublin is a city of more than 47,000 residents located just northwest of Columbus, Ohio. The City of Dublin Economic Development team has a vision to make Dublin a Midwest IT Magnet through business leadership and sustainable workforce development. This commitment goes beyond short-term skills training to include long-term strategic and cultural support for the entire Dublin business community. Dublin is one of America’s Top 20 Creative Class Cities and is home to more than 20 corporate headquarters, an entrepreneurial center, 3,000+ businesses, world-class events and the urban, walkable Bridge Street District.

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