by Bryan Lindenberger

“To run an efficient team, you only need three people: a hipster, a hacker and a hustler.”

So Rei Inamoto, digital designer and founding partner of Inamoto & Company, famously said.

He referred to an artist or visionary (the hipster), a technician or coder (the hacker) and the leader or organizer who holds it all together (the hustler) as the basic components necessary for a digital design team.

Lindsey Robinson leans near two teenage students to look at their work on a computer.
Lindsey Robinson

University of West Georgia’s second annual Hackathon echoed this approach to team formation, even when the participants themselves did not realize it. The event, held in collaboration by the College of Science and Mathematics (COSM) and the College of Education (COE), hosted 38 students from area middle and high schools.

Divided into groups of just a few students each, many without any coding or design experience, students faced a single, day-long challenge. That challenge was to develop a graphics-based animation designed to address issues of bullying.

These young men and women were up to the challenge.

“I want students to see that, by using technology and being a creator, you can have positive impact,” said Dr. Anja Remshagen, a computer science faculty member in COSM who helped organize the event. “For students who have no experience in programming, I want them to see what it is about.”

Event co-organizer and UWG Fusion Center Director Lindsey Robinson echoed those thoughts.

“With events like Hackathon, we bring students onto campus to engage in creativity, teamwork and communication while honing their skills in coding applications,” she said. “To see each kid’s face light up while explaining their end product is truly inspiring.”

Last year, area youth tackled the issue of poverty.

This year, students addressed bullying and suicide prevention through the use of visual storytelling. This process included idea formation, outlining, storyboarding, animation and programming for use on a mobile device. More advanced students made their stories interactive, with multiple choices and possible outcomes.

GreenCourt Legal Technologies, a local company employing eight UWG alumni, donated generously to help make the event possible. Two of its employees, including project manager Becca McCorkle, assisted students as mentors during the event.

“The Hackathon is a microcosm of what we do at GreenCourt,” McCorkle explained. “We start with the problem, try hard to understand the factors that are negotiable and those that are not, experiment with solutions and test everything based on how well we help people move over, through and around the problem at hand.”

Young hipsters, hackers and hustlers brainstormed throughout the day. They jotted personal notes, conceptualized as teams on white boards, ran into technical issues in implementation and brainstormed again.

Dr. Anja Robinson assists two middle-school aged students in their work at a computer.
Dr. Anja Remshagen

But it was a team of two - not three - students who stood above the rest. The visionary artist and the math-minded coders found their own way to hustle, utilizing each other’s strengths without the glue of a third team member to lead them. Their project, titled “Under Pressure,” earned top prize for computing excellence.

“Our game showed how a bullying victim tried to dodge negative signs while grabbing positive signs,” said Chance Gilliard, the 10th-grade mathematics specialist behind the winning app. “We implemented a lot of programs like gravity and a type of stabilization. It was pretty difficult, but a lot of fun working with the math.”

Charles West, Gilliard’s partner and also a sophomore, worked with graphics while developing the overall concept and scoring system of the app.

“I came up with the idea of the negatives coming into play in the character’s outcome,” said West, referring to the scoring system behind the game.

Funding and assistance to make this day of learning possible were provided by GreenCourt, the Walmart Community Foundation, the COE Fusion Center of the College of Education, the UWG Department of Computer Science, and the UWG College of Science and Mathematics.

Posted on March 8, 2018