Student Competitions

Cornell University Holds Random Hacks of Kindness Event

More than 125 students at Cornell University in New York participated in the Random Hacks of Kindness event held at the campus from November 13-15. The multi-disciplinary event partnered non-profit organizations with diverse teams of students to develop solutions to problems.

Ami Stuart, a tech events manager at Cornell who has organized other hackathons, created the event with a real-world focus. "Students had actual 'clients' they were solving for; they weren't creating new businesses, products or services from scratch for hypothetical customers," said Stuart in a prepared statement. "This was about as real as it gets — applying academic education to real-world problems.”

Two Cornell students volunteered over the summer to recruit community partners for the event and collaborated with them to identify problems for participants to solve. They found 10 non-profit partners, who then pitched their problems to students at the launch of the hackathon.

One of those non-profit organizations was Franziska Racker Centers, which supports individuals with disabilities and their families. During the hackathon, "students brainstormed a rideshare service that could help ease transportation issues for rural residents," according to the Cornell Chronicle.

"We're going to talk about this idea and be in touch with some groups in town who could help to implement this," said Dan Brown, executive director of the Franziska Racker Centers, in a prepared statement. "What I like about this event is that it gives students a long-term perspective. It shows them that when they get into their careers, they should do something to give back to society."

The non-profit organizations who suggested problems for the students said they plan to implement many of the solutions the students developed.

The hackathon included students from a variety of disciplines and 55 percent of participants were women. Wesley Sine, a professor of management and organizations who oversaw the event, encouraged students to form diverse teams to help them develop more well defined and creative ideas.

The Random Hacks of Kindness event was sponsored by Entrepreneurship at Cornell and Accenture.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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