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York College hackathon set for October

August 07, 2016
YCP Hacks

York College of Pennsylvania students are planning an event that they hope will put York on the map for technology.

Four York College students are the lead organizers of the college’s first-ever “hackathon” – called YCP Hacks – set for Oct. 21 to 23 at the Yorktowne Hotel in downtown York and sponsored by the J.D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship.

A hackathon is an event where techies, coders and creatives alike meet to engage in collaborative computer programming, giving students a chance to “make something awesome,” said Alyssa McDevitt, a computer science major and one of the event organizers. 

McDevitt is planning YCP Hacks along with Kyle Musco, a computer engineering major; Joe Beck, an electrical engineer major; and Dan Mashuda, a computer science graduate.  

One of the goals of YCP Hacks is that some of those hackers will create software, tools and other items to benefit local nonprofits that will be presenting at the event.

“You don't need to know how to code or be a supreme hacker to come,” Musco said, “you just have to know how to be creative.”

Promoting innovation in York

McDevitt usually heads to State College or Maryland events to connect with other tech-minded students.

But rather than go somewhere else, McDevitt thought, what if she and other students could put their efforts to work right here in York County?

“I know there are other people in York who have great ideas and want to put them to good use,” she said. “There’s a chance for creative things to happen right here.”

McDevitt took her idea for hosting a hackathon in York County to Jeff Vermeulen, executive director of the college's J.D. Brown Center.

It didn’t take much convincing to get him on board.

“The chance to organize and host a hackathon is a great opportunity for York College to offer something exceptional to students,” Vermeulen said. “We can promote innovation that benefits the community by doing this. It was a no-brainer for us to get behind it.”

‘Pretty hardcore’

With anywhere from 150 to 250 students expected to attend YCP Hacks in October, McDevitt and Musco wanted to make sure their event would be set up the proper way.

So in June, they spent several days in Colorado at Hackcon – an official hackathon organizers’ conference put on by Major League Hacking, the official student hackathon league. They learned best practices for running a hackathon, from how to make sure they have enough food for everyone to managing security and safety when working with large groups.

When they got back from the conference, the decided to host YCP Hacks at the Yorktowne Hotel.

During the event, participants will have the chance to book a room at the Yorktowne Hotel, McDevitt said, but that would be a little out of character for how most hackathons run.

“It’s perfectly normal to stay up all night, catch a little bit of sleep on the floor and just work as hard as you can,” she said. “The students who go to hackathons are pretty hardcore.”

Community benefit

Hosting a hackathon not only puts York on the map for tech-focused students, but it gives York College the chance to show prospective students, entrepreneurs and other business advocates that “we have arrived,” Vermeulen said.

For students, YCP Hacks also gives them a chance to network and connect with businesses, nonprofits and others who are looking for exceptional talent. From a business standpoint, there’s a wide pool of recruitment opportunities while the students are here, Vermeulen said.

With the Yorktowne Hotel as the event location, YCP Hacks is another stepping stone in York College’s continued efforts to partner with the community and use the resources downtown.

Just across the street is a reminder of the college’s downtown presence through the renovations at the former Lafayette Club at 59 E. Market St.

Marketview Arts, a recent York College acquisition, is just a few blocks away.

Dominic DelliCarpini, Dean of the Center for Community Engagement (CCE), also finds this to be a powerful way to show York College's commitment to the York City Renaissance. 

“If we are to arrive as a city and region, it will most certainly come through new ideas, new technologies, and new players,” he said. “This confluence of creativity will be a catalyst for all of those things. The CCE will continue that work with the J. D. Brown Center to keep the energy alive.” 

More details

YCP Hacks is a free event, and food will be provided. Participants also get to keep 100 percent of the intellectual property they create during the event

There are still opportunities for businesses and organizations to get involved as sponsors, giving them access to the tech industry’s upcoming top and most passionate talent.

To register as a hacker or to learn more information about being a sponsor, visit www.ycphacks.io or follow @ycphacks on Twitter to stay on top of updates.