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How to Hack Community

hackathon-graphic

The term “hack” has a bad rap. Lots of people still think it means to do something criminal – when it really means to creatively solve a problem. And when we looked at Fairfield County’s tech scene, we realized there was a problem that needed to be “hacked.” We have tons of tech talent, hundreds of engineers & designers, developers & startups, and yet as of 2015, our tech community still hadn’t quite gelled.

So we decided to create a huge community event that would draw together these professionals, along with students, government and major technology companies, for a weekend-long hackathon. A hackathon, for those how don’t know yet, is simply a weekend-long get together, where teams of developers create projects around a chosen technology, like Artificial Intelligence, or Internet of Things.

The first Stamford Hackathon, in September of 2015 was a great success, with hundreds coming through our doors, dozens of developers presenting and some truly amazing projects that showcased the quality of our tech talent. We built, for that first hackathon, a first of its kind 3D interactive model of Stamford, that is available to this day.

The second Stamford Hackathon, held last weekend (February 19-21st), upped the bar yet further, with two hundred developers signed up, and again hundreds coming through for our kickoff, maker expo, speakers and the hackathon itself. Where the first event was simply about getting something started, this second enjoyed much higher corporate and student participation. Our partners really showed the ability of hackathons to foster corporate innovation, and for students looking to understand what a career in technology might involve.

A case in point, one of our key sponsors, Stamford’s own Harman, provided enough of their Pulse and Omni speakers that every team could use them. Among those that did, one team created a solution so cool, that the Harman team asked them to present to their executive team the next day. This really shows the nimbleness and innovative spirit of the Harman team, and the power of community creativity to bring new ideas to companies. We at the Innovation Center we really excited to see this sort of tangible outcome, as we have with similar efforts with Sikorsky and other partners.

The Stamford Hackathon isn’t just about software, it truly is a community event, open to all. To encourage involvement from the community, once again we brought makers, libraries, and speakers together to provide interesting fare for everyone. We even had the Westport Mini Maker Faire come and provide their “Nerdy Derby” to the delight of dozens of younger techies.

Always supportive, city, state & national government figures were on hand to kick the event off, including U.S. Congressman Jim Himes, Stamford Director of Economic Development Thomas Madden, and State Rep. Caroline Simmons.

We at the Stamford Innovation Center sincerely thank all of our sponsors, participants, volunteers and visitors for a fantastic weekend – a weekend that showed how far we’ve come as a community, and how much momentum we have going forward.

We’ll see you all at the next Stamford Hackathon on Sept. 16-18th!

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