Inaugural Hackathon Showcases Innovation

Hackathons, in which teams brainstorm and develop tech innovations in marathon sessions, are growing in popularity at top schools across the country. Rhodes students Sam Reid ’16, Thomas Threlkeld ’16, and Justin Geeza ’17 have organized the inaugural RhodesHacks that will begin in the Barret Library on the evening of Friday, Jan. 22, and end the afternoon of Saturday, Jan. 23. 

“This is an innovation competition in which participants will be judged according to their project’s performance in the tech, design, and service categories,” says Reid, an economics major. “They will be working all through the night to build creative projects they are excited about. This will likely be a software application, but it also can be an innovative way to help the homeless or a solution to help Rhodes recycle more or use energy more efficiently. Since we are not a state school with a giant engineering program, we thought we would add a liberal arts flair to hackathons by adding a service component.”

The competition is free and open to all Rhodes students with future plans to open the event to students from schools across the country and attract prospective students to Rhodes. Reid says he expects 10 teams to participate in the inaugural event. “Hackathons attract the most ambitious and creative students, and Rhodes certainly has its fair share of those,” says Reid. “The participants are super pumped. A few of them keep texting me about what they are going to build/make. I know I’m excited!”

Reid adds the hackathon would not have been possible without the team’s advisor Bud Richey, associate vice president for external programs at Rhodes, and an advisory board made up of alumni such as Lily Mahoney, Demitri Jerow, Rikeen Patel, and David Dunavant. Tom Gieselmann, a Rhodes alumnus and venture capitalist, is an event sponsor, as well as Aramark. The prizes are an assortment of tech items including the Amazon Echo, Fitbit, and Raspberry Pi. There will be one grand prize winner and three winners in each of the categories—tech, design and service.

“It has been a pleasure for me to work with the Rhodes Entrepreneur Club in developing this inaugural event,” says Richey. “I love the vision of our students!  We may look at this as an activity which will occur on a Friday night in January 2016.  They see it as the launch pad for an initiative that within three years will attract participants attending colleges and universities from throughout the world.”  

Adds Reid, “Many thanks to the numerous people across the Rhodes faculty and staff who have helped to make this event possible. It’s awesome to see the school get behind a student led initiative, and I’m very excited about the future. Hackathons attract smart people who like to solve hard problems. They also attract the best companies who want to hire those smart students.”

For updates, visit the RhodesHacks Facebook page.