New trend sees evolution of the higher ed hackathon

“I’ve seen tech guys sit for 100 hours and code, but the life of a product goes from creation all the way to packaging and delivery,” said Dave. “At the end of the day, it’s not just about software and tech, but a range of different disciplines.”

A Good Product is More Than Tech

Those other disciplines of design, fabrication and art were chosen based on what the team felt were the most key elements in a good product aside from the technology. Deciding on three main disciplines, as well as technology, also helped the organizers to better decide what resources they would provide.

As a Major League Hacking event, Hamp Hack was able to ensure that resources such as Oculus Rift virtual-reality devices, Pebble Smart Watches, Leap Motion computer controllers, and MindWave NeuroSky brainwave-reading headsets were available for the participants. A host of other materials that extended to the other disciplines were also available. Participants had access to the Center for Design’s machine shop and design lab as well.

Although the student organizers were initially unsure of what people would actually make at Hamp Hack and if it run smoothly, Dave said they were blown away by the turnout and interdisciplinary efforts of the participants, and that the event went without a hitch.

“It was not just an event, but more of an extension of Hampshire’s beliefs in interdisciplinary action, getting ideas out, and diversity,” said Dave.

Taking Ideas to Market

More than 35 extremely unique projects were submitted by the competition’s end, with 15 being awarded prizes. Dave proudly said that about 30-35 percent of the teams achieved the intended escape velocity and expect to take their projects forward into the market.

The Environmental Sustainability prize and top prize in the competition was given to an app that allows users to take a picture of an item, and the app tells you if and how it should be recycled. One of the members on the team knew how to create an app, while the rest of the team worked to create a visually appealing user interface and hone the app’s environmental connections.

Other examples of creations made at Hamp Hack included a thought controlled autonomous car which won the Brain and Development prize; a huge Rube Goldberg machine made entirely from things like paper, cardboard, tape and pins; and an interactive storybook that lights up, makes noise, and encourages touch and drawing at various points.

“We hope some of the student teams will be able to develop their product further using funding from prizes,” says Dave. “It’s a great way for students to push themselves, learn new ideas, and form bonds with people they might not otherwise have met.”

Dave said the team plans to host another Hamp Hack in Spring 2017, with an even greater focus on interdisciplinary creation.

For photos and even more information on this year’s event, take a look at Hamp Hack’s website here.

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