YCP Hacks: Just the start of inspiring tech innovation at York College
What if you had 36 hours to change the world?
Here’s a computer, an internet connection, a team of advisors ready to listen; here all around you are others at work in a room abuzz with possibility.
So, what will you make?
College students recently seized that opportunity at York College of Pennsylvania’s inaugural hackathon – called YCP Hacks – that brought together young people from across the country for a unique competition focused on innovation.
From the creation of new apps to advancing microcontroller design, participants shared ideas and learned what it takes to excel in today's tech-centric world. They learned, too, that York is a hub for such cutting-edge creativity.
“There’s definitely a footprint of entrepreneurship in this area,” said Dr. James Norrie, Dean of the Graham School of Business and a YCP Hacks judge. “You look at something like the hackathon and it tells you we’ve positioned ourselves in York to see more of this type of innovation going forward.”
Hacking it under pressure
Just days away from the event, the young organizers of YCP Hacks were nervous.
Students Alyssa McDevitt, Kyle Musco and Joe Beck, along with recent alumnus Dan Mashuda, had spent weeks planning. But hours ahead of that Friday kickoff, they faced down their first-time jitters.
“We had no idea if anyone who signed up would show up, or if we would be bombarded by people,” Beck said.
Those fears quickly abated. Close to 100 young people arrived from York College and well beyond. Community business partners stepped up to provide supplies and support. Mentors like Mashuda, who works at Dataforma, a J.D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship incubator business, were on hand ready and willing to help.
“I enjoyed mentoring during the event because I was able to talk to the students working on projects they felt passionate about,” Mashuda said.
And, after a day-plus with little sleep but plenty of successes, organizers were proud of their first local hackathon event.
“We started off with no budget, little experience, and support from a few faculty members,” Musco said. “But piece by piece we overcame the obstacles, raised $25,000 from our corporate sponsors and rallied the support of the entire Engineering, Computer Science, Business and Entrepreneurship departments.”
On the face of it, staying up for 36 hours with your eyes glued to rows of code might not sound that appealing, joked Jeff Vermeulen, executive director of the J.D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship.
But this generation of students brings an “innovation culture” unique to its young members, some of the first to fully grasp all that might be unlocked with the today’s tools.
“Good entrepreneurs find a need and fill it, and this is no different,” Vermeulen said.
They look for ways to make life a little better and to help others, he said. That’s why all that hackathon hard work over just a day and a half was so meaningful.
“A lot of these kids want to make their mark by helping people,” he said. “That’s inspiring. I look at this, and it gives me faith in the future.”
The next hack
After the success of the first YCP Hacks, organizers are already looking at a second event next year.
Interest from both students and community partners is high, but several of this year’s organizers will graduate, and new leadership is needed.
Could that be you? All it takes is work, the students said.
“Over the next few months we will be looking for ambitious students who are willing to commit the long hours it takes to running a hackathon,” Musco said. “It’s work that’s well worth it.”