Student Competitions

Penn State Teams Dominate App-Building Hackathon

Seven three-student teams competed to come up with the best app to improve student learning and success.Teams from Pennsylvania State University took first and second prizes in the first-ever Civitas Learning Student Success Hackathon, held the weekend of February 7-8 at the Austin, TX, headquarters of the software-as-a-service provider.

In the hackathon, seven teams from colleges and universities around the country competed — over a 24-hour period — to build apps that would improve student learning and success. Four teams from Texas universities, along with the two from Penn State and one from University of Nevada Las Vegas, competed.

Winning the $3,000 first prize, one of the Penn State teams created "Lady Bird," an app that allows students to design their own course program by revealing courses that match their personal interests and then cross-referencing them with courses that would fulfill the requirements for their degrees.

The second prize of $2,000 went to a Penn State team that built "Construct," a Web site that matches students based on skills they have or want to develop in a project-based learning setting.

Chris Millet, the assistant director of education technology services at Penn State who accompanied the teams to the Austin competition, said there were significant benefits to the students who participated.

"I think that going into the workforce, they're going to have quite an advantage, having had this experience," Millet said. "Actually, some of these hackathons are increasingly being used by recruiters as a way to find talented students."

A panel of six judges evaluated the student teams' apps.

One of the judges, Civitas Learning Vice President of Product Laura Malcolm, said, "This was a deep learning experience for the students. They just didn't pick to work on apps using skills and tools they already knew."

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.

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