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Empowerment Hackathon

Introduction by Professor Beste Yuksel

We are very proud to announce that we held a hackathon on the theme of 'Empowerment' at the University of San Francisco in the department of Computer Science this year. This hackathon was sponsored by the very generous donations of Craig Newmark Philanthropies. It was organized by the Women in Tech (WiT) and ACM Student Chapter organizations. We had 53 students take part, 43% of which were female or non-binary! This is a huge coup for Computer Science where women generally make up 20-25% of classrooms and traditionally do not attend hackathons as much as men.

We had five categories that teams could compete in, each of which had $500 cash prizes. We were careful to have the categories include beginner and advanced levels in order to attract students who were just starting out in computer science as well as the more experienced ones. We chose the theme of 'Empowerment' to allow students to build apps and websites that could empower themselves and each other. This theme was very broad and encompassed issues such as empowerment of women, immigrants, minorities, or the environment.

Hackathons allow students to experience working in a team, create portfolios for job applications, and to build confidence. Employers look for people who can work in teams and have projects outside of normal classwork. Bringing women into hackathons gives them an equal opportunity and competitive edge when applying for internships and jobs.

Below you can learn about the experiences of some of those 53 student participants.

What did you enjoy about the hackathon?

“I felt very comfortable and welcomed throughout the entire event. I've always been afraid of going to hackathons because I imagined it would be a cut-throat, competitive environment made up of strangers who are very experienced at hackathons. This event gave me the opportunity to participate in a hackathon, knowing that this was probably the first hackathon for most of the other participants too.” - Sarah Lopez, Computer Science, 19’

“I enjoyed the food and social environment as students could easily meet new people and get to know what interests they have in Computer Science.” - Arturo Galvan-Alarcon, Computer Science, 21’

What project did your team complete?

"We built a resource website that contained empowerment memes that could help people." - Arturo Galvan-Alarcon, Computer Science, 21’

"I was the part of SMS team and we created beginner app and beginner website." - Salima Mukhit, Computer Science, 21’

"ColorBold -- an app that helps color blind people distinguish between colors that are usually indistinguishable for them." - Sarah Lopez, Computer Science, 19’

What knowledge have you taken away from the hackathon?

“How to be fully involved in doing something. As well I practiced my HTML and CSS skills.” - Salima Mukhit, Computer Science, 21’

“Through this event I learned that I actually love hackathons. I loved getting together with a group of strangers to come up with an idea and bring it to life. It was fun and rewarding experience and I can't believe I had never done one before.” - Sarah Lopez, Computer Science, 19’

What is your most memorable moment from the hackathon?

“When they announced my team as the winners of the Best App category I was very surprised and very proud. This was the first time I had ever been in a hackathon, so it was so exciting to win.”- Salima Mukhit, Computer Science, 21’

“The guest speakers who talked about their experiences and thoughts about how they reached where they are now compared to when they where as a freshman/sophomore.” - Arturo Galvan-Alarcon, Computer Science, 21’

“When we won!” - Salima Mukhit, Computer Science, 21’

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