New trend sees evolution of the higher ed hackathon

First ever interdisciplinary hackathon brings different fields together and creative ideas to life.

In a trending event that’s taken the higher-ed world by storm (e.g. MLH hackathons, Northern Virginia’s recent hackathon, Princeton’s recent hackathon, and many more), a team of Hampshire College students have launched a unique hackathon aimed at engaging more than just tech students, thanks to the incorporation of different disciplines such as art, design, fabrication and more. The goal is to create products that attempt to solve problems resonating in the modern world.

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The event, called Hamp Hack–sponsored by Major League Hacking, Hampshire College and other national and regional sponsors–was held on the weekend of February 26-27, 2016, and gathered students from across five colleges from the Northeast and beyond. The event was built around the idea that every great product or project is a mixture of components from various different fields and areas of interest.

While hosting hackathons on campuses has been a growing trend, this event broke the mold by widening the typical model of tech-minded people coming together to solve tech challenges, thanks to its interdisciplinary scope that welcomes technophiles and technophobes alike.

Nearly 200 students, 53 percent of which were women, formed teams of up to 4 to create working prototypes of potentially viable products tackling problems in environmental sustainability, the brain and development, “life hacks,” artificial intelligence, and more. An idea jam session at the beginning of the weekend allowed students to express ideas and find teammates, and faculty members and student staff served as mentors to the teams in the event that they needed any help or advice.

“This was an experiment to see what we could do by extending Hampshire’s beliefs of interdisciplinary work,” said Chief Organizer and Hampshire Student Nirman Dave. “What would happen if people from different fields came together and tried to solve a problem? With this event, we wanted to give students a platform that gives their unique ideas an escape velocity into reality, and to not just talk, but to get together and make their ideas happen.”

(Next page: Top prize-winning projects from the hackathon)

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