The gateway to everything entrepreneurial at Cornell University

Join our eship listserve

Hackathons

A hackathon celebrates "hacking" in its most positive context — using minimal resources and maximum brain power to create outside-the-box solutions ("hacks"). Our hackathons utilize the skills of students from all the degrees, majors, and programs to form diverse teams and create solutions, products, or services in a constrained amount of time.

Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 Hackathons

Back to top

Participants

Participants generally fall into one of the following categories:

Newbie: wants to see what all the hype is about, may not code or even be in a technical major, may feel apprehensive- not knowing what to expect, or just really likes to try new things, curious

Focused First Timer: has heard of a hackathon and understands the immense opportunity, may have an idea for a business/startup/product and plans to utilize the hackathon to create an MVP and get feedback, entrepreneurial minded and looking for potential cofounders or a startup to join amongst the attendees

Repeat: did one, loved it, comes back for more. Likes the way it expanded their skill set, exposed them to new people and ideas, plus they're interested in a job or internship at one of the sponsoring companies   

Veteran: participates in every possible hackathon, win/lose doesn't matter because the skills, friendships and connections made are life changing, and really it's just so much fun

Different hackathons attract different demographics of participants. The health hack attracts the most MDs, Animal Health attracts the largest numbers of DVMs, over all we are proud of the diversity and breadth of experience in our participants.

We average ~50% participation from women and have seen increasing numbers of under-represented minorities.



Participants come from all over, typically it is the NYC hackathons that draw the most participants from outside of Cornell university.


Back to top

Themes

All our hackathons are organized around a topic or theme. Some topics are presented to us for consideration, if there is a fit and room in the schedule- we partner up to design and deliver the hackathon. (Animal Health, Digital Agriculture, Food)

Sometimes we propose the topic and approach others (Depts, School, Companies) to partner with us to bring it to life. (Fintech, Health, Random Hacks of Kindness)




Sometimes companies approach us to work with them exclusively to create a custom hackathon that specifically addresses challenges they propose (Manhattan DA's Office, Financial Inclusion, VR, Hospitality) To see these please visit Case Studies


Back to top

Format

Our hackathons start Friday late afternoon/early evening, we kick-off typically with a keynote, presenting of the challenges/topic or theme for the weekend, an overview of the resources and schedule. Just before dinner, students line up to pitch problem based ideas (in 90 seconds) this is to help draw the interest of students in the audience to join them. Over the dinner break teams form organically with a minimum team size being 4 and maximum team size being 6.  After dinner teams gather for a Design Thinking Workshop.

The Design Thinking Workshop is to help teams form ground rules, define roles, and determine an MVP (Minimal Viable Product), honed into an MDP (Minimal Desirable Product) that they can feasibly create over the weekend. Empathy maps, user research, customer discovery, impact, and more are all touched on.

Teams work in self assigned physical spaces in the venue. Periodic check-ins, called PiNGs are scheduled in which one member of each team must report in their teams Progress, Needs, & Goals. This verbal report is given in front of an audience of mentors who then visit the teams' workspaces to provide feedback.

Check-ins happen twice on saturday, with mentors visiting teams for up to 90 minutes post check-in. Outside of this formal mentoring time, students approach mentors for additional assistance.

Mentors
Mentors are provided by sponsoring companies and also include faculty and staff at Cornell. The background of the mentors is representative of the varied perspectives of participants. Mentors come from technical, business, product, marketing roles and more. Please watch these videos to see what mentors have to say about their hackathon experience.

Demo Day
The event culminates with demos on sunday. Student teams pitch/present their projects to a panel of judges and are awarded cash prizes. Presentations are typically 4 minutes long with 4 minutes of Q&A.

Back to top

Team

This group of individuals, with their drive to do good in the world, are the Justice League of the hackathons. They challenge and support each other, united by respect and admiration.

Ami Stuart '10
Tech Events Manager

Tushar MS '14
Developer

Rose Pember '16 MS
Faculty - Parsons

Slater Goodman '19
Videographer

Avery Damon Bogetti Pérez '21
Concierge

Aaliyah Holliday '21
Advertising

Tamara Kamis '22
Writer

Ami Stuart

Tech Events Manager

Ami organized her first hackathon in spring 2014, her second a month later, and the rest is history. She is sought out for her hackathon expertise and has been recruited by other universities to help them organize hackathons at their campuses.

Tushar

Developer

Tushar is so eponymous to Hackathons he only needs one name. Tushar first appeared in 2014 at the Health hackathon held at WebMD in NYC. He then participated in Fintech and approached us to propose a Data hackathon. We collaborated to organize the 2015 Data Hackathon and have been inseparable ever since.

If hackathons had an EGOT, Tushar would have one; Having participated in 50+ and organized too many to count. We like to joke that Tushar could quit his job and just win hackathons to support himself. In his formal employed life, Tushar is a developer at a start in NYC.

BE Computer Engineering, Masters Computer & Information Science '14

Rose Pember '16 MS

Faculty - Parsons

After participating in the famed Data Hackathon of 2015, Rose began working with us- the very same year we transitioned our tech treks into conferences- it was an infamous academic year [4 hackathons, 3 conferences, 2 networking events, & Shark Tank] and Rose proved her worth and the value of design 10x. After graduating Cornell Rose completed her Masters at Parsons and was invited to stay on to teach. She teaches 3 design courses at The New School.

Rose never ceases to amaze, whether she's chatting in Arabic to an attendee, talking distributed systems with a blockchain consultant, or debating biohacking, she defies norms. [all true anecdotes]

BA Comparative Literature '16, MS Strategic Design & Management

Slater Goodman '19

Videographer

Slater first met the team when he filmed the epic disabilities hackathon at New Lab in 2016. He seamlessly integrated as if we were lifelong friends, and his video skills are on point. He is the VIP for filming and creating content for all the hackathons. Post graduation Slater joined his brother Spenser full time at their production company-TableRock. No worries though, he continues to be our lead producer of video content.

BA Australian History & Literature '19

Avery Damon Bogetti Pérez '21

Concierge

Perfectly poised Damon is a current student in the A&S College Scholar program and RA of a freshmen dorm. Diplomatic Damon is the friendly face greeting attendees and assisting with day-of event execution. Damon joined the team in spring 2018 at the Health Hackathon, though they did take a break to study abroad in Paris one semester.

Aaliyah Holliday '21

Advertising

Don't let her subdued nature fool you- she's a pre-med student in A&S studying biological sciences. Like our posters? You can thank Aaliyah- she ensures printing and distribution to spread hackathon awareness and drive participation. Aaliyah is also onsite at all the events ensuring smooth execution. Aaliyah joined the team in spring 2018 at the Health Hackathon.

Tamara Kamis '22

Writer

We met Tamara when she covered the 2019 Animal Health and Digital Ag Hackathons for the Cornell Sun. She blew us away with her dedication and we knew we had to have her on the team. Watch for upcoming Pre- and Post- event write-ups, more social media posts, and "where are they know" updates. Tamara is in A&S studying Biology and Society.

Back to top

Sponsors

The hackathons are made possible by the support of our sponsors. A range of sponsor tiers exist, with increasing perks and benefits at each level. By opening the hackathons to sponsors our intent is to provide increased opportunity for the students and meaningful engagement for the sponsors.

Reasons to sponsor may include:
Recruit students (internships, full time employment)
Engage with faculty, university, and the other sponsors
Develop partnerships for innovation pipeline
Increase brand awareness
Early access to entrepreneurial students/startups to invite to your incubator or accelerator
Increase brand awareness
Share API, tech stack

Perks include:
Speaking spot in program
Propose a challenge/problem
Spot on the judging panel
Conduct a workshop
Contact info & resumes of all participants
Logo on event site, swag
Table at Event

Sponsors have included:


Back to top

Case Studies

Elevate Global approached us to create a hackathon to engage Latin American banking lenders. Elevate is hired by these banks and cooperatives to provide financial education to necessity entrepreneurs (the borrowers) that results in lowered default rates and improved business practices. Students were asked to create products, services, and practices to increase financial inclusion, reduce turnover, promote saving, and identify areas to increase operational efficiency.

Dozens of Latin American bank executives came up from Mexico, Peru, Paraguay, Ecuador and Chile, to interact with students resulting in increased empathy and truly viable solutions. This hackathon was done in NYC (2017) and in Ithaca (2018). The solutions were custom to the pain points of the banking partners and were turned over to them for implementation.




Hilton approached us to create a hackathon to expose students to the pain points in hospitality and foster creative proposals over the weekend. Students were asked to elevate the customer experience and to use data to foster increased community & connection.

Hospitality (2017) focused on Hilton's luxury brands-Waldorf, Conrad, and Canopy, while 2018's hackathon focused on the entirety of Hilton's family of brands.




Samsung NEXT approached us to organize a VR hackathon held at their Samsung NEXT Accelerator office in NYC. Students prototyped VR applications focused on either Education or Travel utilizing developer kits which included: Gear VR, Samsung 360 Camera, and Samsung Phones.




The Manhattan District Attorney's Human Trafficking Response Unit (HTRU) approached us to create a hackathon to address Sex and Labor trafficking in Manhattan. This hackathon was especially remarkable because of the extremely collaborative nature of the teams- which included students, faculty, researchers, and experts from across the country and Canada.

Teams created digital and automated solutions to scrape internet data, run algorithms, traces, they utilized AI and ML to red flag/predict incidents/locations worth further scrutiny, they  connected key words and images across PDFs, case files, arrest records and more. The solutions were all turned over to the DA to implement.




Tikkun Olam Makers (TOMs) approached us to collaborate on a hackathon to produce open-source solutions for people with disabilities. This combo 'makeathon/ hackathon' was held at the New Lab in Brooklyn and provided an array of prototyping equipment, machinery, workshops, and supplies. Post-event blueprints and instructions are posted open-source so that anyone, anywhere can duplicate the products. Experience the 48 hour hackathon in 4 minutes via this video.





Back to top

FAQs

Do I need an idea to participate in the hackathon?

No. On Friday evening, students with ideas present their pitches to recruit other students to join their team. Students without ideas join up with students whose ideas they like. Information is also shared in advance, some students may reach out to others to try to form a team in advance of the event. Usually 70% of students sign up without having a team.

Do I need to know how to code to participate in a hackathon?

No. The best teams are made up of individuals from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Diverse perspectives produce the best outcomes. Ideally teams have a mix of degrees, majors, schools, class standing, gender, and more. Whether a first semester freshmen, experienced MBA, or third year PHD- everyone has something to contribute and something to learn. Please watch the videos and look at the statistics, our hackathons are truly open any person in any study!

Does it cost money to participate?

No. The hackathon is entirely free for students. All meals are provided (Friday dinner through Sunday Lunch). For hackathons that take place outside of Ithaca, travel stipends are sometimes available to subsidize travel cost. Roundtrip bus transportation is typically provided for hackathons in NYC, spots on the bus are first come/first serve. Overnight accommodations are not provided. Students are not expected, nor required, to stay up overnight (we strongly encourage sleep).

Will this help me find a job?

The hackathon provides students with an unparalleled opportunity to network and develop valuable career contacts. Past Hackathon participants have been recruited for summer internships and received post-graduate job offers through connections made at the Hackathon. Teams with viable demos have been invited to incubators, accelerators, and/or have had the opportunity to pilot their products/services at sponsors companies.

Students who participate in the Hackathons build valuable professional competencies applicable to a wide variety of careers. Idea generation, problem-solving, forming and working within diverse multi-disciplinary teams, project management, branding and marketing, creating pitches, and public speaking, are just some of the many skills students will practice in this experiential learning setting.

The hackathon provides students with content for their resume, LinkedIn profile, and experience to talk about in interviews. A hackathon is also an opportunity for students to see all the ways in which their knowledge, skills, and abilities can be applied in a variety of roles across a variety of industries.

Who owns the IP from the hackathon?

The focus of the Hackathon is to provide an experiential learning opportunity. Ideas generated are, generally, in their very early stages, for which limited, if any, intellectual property is developed. Cornell generally does not have ownership rights to ideas generated by undergraduate students at the Hackathon. To the extent Cornell Policy 1.5 applies, it remains in force. Cornell Policy 1.5 requires individuals, as conditions of their university appointments or their use of university resources, to assign to the university all right, title, and interest in their inventions and related property rights that result from activity conducted in the course of their university appointments and/or their use of university resources. Participation in the Hackathon alone does not qualify as use of university resources and university resources are not intended to be used for Hackathon projects. Participants in the Hackathon are prohibited from disclosing Sponsor or University confidential information in the Hackathon.

Back to top