When the very definition of a hacker in the dictionary implies that they are a person who causes damage, we could be excused when it conjures bad images in our minds. But as Catherine Bracy of Code for America described in her TEDCity2.0 talk, hacking has equal power for good as for evil.
She asserts that Benjamin Franklin was one of the greatest hackers of all time because hacking is basically “amateur innovation on an existing system.” That’s the type of innovation we want to encourage as co-sponsors with Intel of Major League Hacking (MLH), the official student hackathon league.
Not really sure what a hackathon is? Tech-savvy mom Rakia Reynolds explained it when outlining her 5 Reasons Your Gen Z-er Should Be Hacking:
“When I first heard the term, I admit, I was a little apprehensive. My overprotective mom-brain automatically seized when I saw the word hack. Words like ‘unauthorized,’ ‘stealing,’ or ‘change your password immediately!’ reverberated in my mind. The action of ‘hacking’ by nature sounds dangerous, but in reality, hackathons are quickly becoming incubators for the future leaders and do-ers of the world.”
Major League Hacking’s events bring students together to collaborate intensively on software and/or hardware projects. They are able to learn new technologies, experiment with unusual project ideas, and collaborate with peers from beyond their school – as well as network with potential employers and collaborators.
At CES2016, I had the pleasure of working with the co-founder of MLH Jon Gottfried, who played host on our Periscope broadcasts from the event and had fun throwing one of our Latitude 12 Rugged tablets around the tradeshow floor. He shared with me what inspired him to start MLH:
"I've loved building things for as long as I can remember, but I never considered it to be anything more than a hobby because none of my friends were obsessed with it in the same way that I was. When I attended my first hackathon many years ago, it was the first time that I was really exposed to a group of people who loved creating things for the sake of experimentation and learning. Hackathons create an environment that brings people together to build new technology and share it with the world. Swift, my co-founder, and I started MLH to make these experiences available to every student, regardless of how deeply they've considered studying programming in the past."
MLH is now in the midst of their 2016 global tour which encompasses more than 60,000 students. Last weekend they had simultaneous events in Houston, Texas; Eugene, Oregon; Hamilton, Ontario; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; as well as KnightHacks at The University of Central Florida where they were joined by Dell Executive Director and Alienware Co-founder Frank Azor (center below).
If you know a student that might be interested in attending, I encourage you to check the full schedule to find a location near you. They don’t even have to know code.
“The entire Major League Hacking team knew very little when they each attended their very first hackathon,” Gottfried said. “It’s entirely irrelevant what your experience is going into a hackathon, it’s more about your interest in technology. Every MLH Member Event is passionate about making their hackathons very welcoming and beginner-friendly.”
In addition to helping sponsor the MLH events, Dell also offers student discounts to provide them the best price for technology to push their creative limits.