I was invited by Mark Glaser and Beth Laing of PBS MediaShift and Dana Coester of West Virginia University (WVU) to attend and speak at a Hackathon at WVU. If you don’t know what a hackathon is, it’s a forum where people get together and try to solve problems. At this hackathon, female students from a variety of collleges/universities from Stamford, Syracuse, Howard, Penn State, WVU among others, were challenged to put together a wearable app that would solve a problem.
The event opened with a session at Google in Silicon Valley. The event was broadcast via Google Hangout and later appeared on YouTube. These leading women, including: Jane Schachtel (Facebook’s Glabal Head of Mobile and Tech Strategy), Laura Michelle Berman (Melon), Anna Holmes (Founder of Jezebel), Aminatou Sow (Tech LadyMafia), Tasneem Raja (Mother Jones) and Val Aurora (Ada Initiative). The panel was moderated by Amy Webb (digital media futurist and founder of Webbmedia Group). They talked about challenges women face in in technology. It was definitely worth the watch!
Since I am directionally challenged, I didn’t make it to the event Friday evening. It took me a lot longer to get from Pittsburgh Airport to Morgantown than I expected. So by the time I got to my hotel, I went to bed!
However, I got up bright and early the next day and attended the morning keynote address that focused on designing an app. This was followed by small group brainstorms. My presentation came after lunch. I focused on what wearables are, what industry is doing with wearables, what I’ve done with wearables and the future of wearables.
After my presentation, I attended three of the eight groups to help brainstorm some more. I disclosed that I was a judge as to not discuss individual projects. The students asked me interesting questions and the conversation was incredibly thought provoking.
The next day, there was a brief keynote on presentation skills followed by a breakout session where the students finalized their presentations. They had four minutes to present in front of a group of five judges plus me (the wearable expert).
Here’s what they came up with:
- Wearable Bra that monitors breast activity for cysts and/or cancer
- A Google Glass app for journalists and bloggers that would provide a portable newsroom via Google Glass
- A wearable pin, worn by a teacher where keywords are highlighted and segmented for further study
- A microchip that appears on the back of a FitBit that monitors sodium and potassium levels
- A “Time Out” app that shuts down all your mobile and wearable devices so that you can have a real conversation without interruption
- A wearable necklace that monitors your menstrual cycle including ovulation
- A solar powered cap for farmers that help with inventory
I was impressed with the calibre of students, the faculty at WVU and the mentors who joined the students on their weekend Hackathon journey. It was a great experience for all involved!