Published: Nov. 16, 2016

Engineering students and Facebook engineers converge at Hackathon

Our recent Hackathon on campus was a marathon of collaboration and networking!  Telecom (ITP) students spent 6 hours developing solutions to network engineering and security problems. Sponsored by Facebook for the first time ever, students applied skills and savvy from the classroom on real-world problems. The Hackathon was also a great opportunity for students to meet industry professionals while demonstrating job skills that set them apart from the crowd.

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On November 12th, roughly 100 students gathered on the CU Boulder campus to tackle a telecom-oriented hackathon. This is the fifth year ITP has hosted an on-campus hackathon run by Joe McManus, an ITP Scholar-in-Residence. Though each year presents a unique challenge to students, there's a basic structure the event follows -- students have a set period of time to develop a solution to a problem. Students work on teams to develop solutions by applying skills they've learned in classes taken in various engineering disciplines.

Though hackathons aren't unique to ITP, Professor McManus has plenty of reasons why he thinks ITP's events are a great opportunity for both students and employers.

"On a resume, everyone looks the same,” he said. “It's hugely beneficial to students to have company engineers on site watching how they approach problem-solving while working under pressure. The skills they're using are skills that will never show up on a resume.”

McManus said employers can really see how students think when they're challenged to develop a solution in a short timeframe. Meanwhile, students are excited at the chance to meet professional engineers from industry and the opportunity to network with them.

"It really is an all-day event, usually 6 - 12 hours”, he said. “The kinds of solutions the students come up with when they're fueled by pizza is amazing."

The opportunity for interchange between students and employers definitely benefits both sides. The continuous support from ITP's industry partners has always impressed Professor McManus. Companies that have supported past events are LogRhythm, HP, Webroot and Paraben Forensics. All companies have CRU forensics and have donated items to the Hackathons - sometimes that means paying for breakfast and lunch, offering financial support or sending goodie bags. If companies donate, they usually have engineers on-site.

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Participating students are also more likely to be offered internships and, upon graduation, full-time jobs from the companies that attend and see the students in action, McManus said. ITP has two Hackathons planned in the Spring 2017 semester, and will continue to expand participation to include all students at CU Boulder.

Thanks to Facebook for helping make this a great day!  

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