5 Reasons Your Gen Z-er Should Be Hacking

November 20, 2015

12:30 pm

As a parent, I am choosy about what activities I allow my children to engage in, which usually requires some digging and deciphering. When making a decision, it helps for me to remember my tried and true mental checklist – does this activity or event meet the Three C Rule? Will it help my child become more competent, conscious and confident?

To my surprise, hackathons pass the test. A term many of us have overheard at the water cooler or from our own Gen Z-ers, hackathons are omnipresent in schools and communities around the world. But, really, what is a hackathon? 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. Hackathons are purposefully disruptive and solution-driven –so don’t go switching on your parental controls just yet.

Hackathons are typically weekend long events, but they can range anywhere from 24 hours long to 36 hours long. Not be mistaken as an exclusive clubhouse, hackathons are open to students varying from high school to college and beyond. During a hackathon, anywhere from 200 to 2,000 students gather under one roof to build, learn and share.

As a member of Dell’s Insider program, I had the opportunity to speak with Mike Swift, founder of Major League Hacking, the official student hackathon group. According to Swift:

“Hackathons are about coming up with a solution by putting together a group of creatives, software experts, and graphic designers in one room for the weekend – it is the blissful, harmonious marriage of coding and creativity.”

Partners of Major League Hacking, like Dell, are using hackathons as opportunities to mentor and recruit students.

Still not convinced: Let’s dive deeper.

Hackathons Solve Problems

In the hackathon ecosystem, a problem is considered a probortunity, or a problem that gives way to an opportunity. I have always taught my children that a setback is just a setup for their next comeback (one of my all time favorite Joel Osteen quotes). Hackathons instill that very same lesson. While there are different end-goals surrounding a hackathon, such as building an app that helps you sing in the shower or headsets that filter through ads, the purpose is always about finding a solution to a real-world problem through collaboration.

All for One, and One for All

Hackathons are open to everyone, not just coders or computer science students. Hackathons are a made up of a diverse and dynamic group of builders, creative, programmers and designers. If your child has an interest in technology, Hackathons offer an opportunity to learn, grow, and pick up valuable technical skills they will need for their future careers. Knowing how to program in the modern age is becoming a second-hand skill for Gen Z.

Interpersonal Impact

While hackathons are solutions-based, they also serve as an opportunity for both extroverts and introverts to foster relationships and social and interpersonal skills while engaging in something they have a shared, genuine interest in. “People from all types of socio-economic backgrounds gather under one roof to learn how to be effective on a team,” says Swift.

It Covers the Three C’s

It’s a community-focused meeting of the minds that prides itself on encouraging attendees to take initiative on the project and challenge themselves to critically think of a solution. They leave feeling competent of their newly honed skills, conscious of others around them and confident in themselves. For young people still shaping their self-identity, there is no better feeling than knowing they contributed to something that will help others.

It’s Just Getting Started

As the hacker culture grows, the more vital it is for parents to become educated and help reshape the public ethos surrounding the hackathon.  Organizations like Major League Hacking are creating a space for students and companies to cultivate skills, technical and social, that they will carry with them for their entire careers.

Hackathons are free, so what are you waiting for? Get hacking! Visit Major League Hacking to find a Hackathon near you, or how you can become a part of the Student Hackathon League.

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Rakia Reynolds is the founder of Skai Blue Media, a multimedia public relations agency with an all-star roster of lifestyle, technology, non-profit and fashion clients. Noted as an influencer in the creative business industry, Reynolds is sought after by companies to provide her expertise in creative development, branding and strategic communications. Reynolds was recently named one of the 25 tastemakers on Dell’s “Inspire 100” list, a list of the most socially influential people in the country. As a leader in the communications industry, Skai Blue Media provides business development, marketing, and message strategy to nonprofits, tech start-ups, and fashion designers, among other businesses. Reynolds’ path to entrepreneurship started with creative ventures, including a role producing shows for MTV, TLC and Discovery Health networks. Ultimately, she chose to create her own company that represents the future of public relations in the digital age. A self-described “octopus woman, wearing many hats,” Reynolds currently serves as the co- president of the Philadelphia chapter of Women in Film & Television, serves as a board advisor for Fashion Group International, and the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications. Reynolds is a chapter leader for the Young Entrepreneur Council, and was presented the Power to the Community award by PECO for being a community trailblazer. In 2014, she was appointed to the United Nations Global Accelerator, a select group of entrepreneurs from around the nation who collectively address real-world issues with creative solutions. Reynolds also serves on the advisory committee for Global Act, a service-oriented charity that unites diverse, accomplished leaders in accelerating positive social change. Reynolds has worked as a guest editor for Marie Claire magazine, has been featured in Essence, Lucky, and Uptown, and writes entrepreneurial-focused articles for outlets like Forbes. com, Living in the Grey, StartUpCollective.com, BlackEnterprise. com, Idea Mensch, and Killer Startups. In addition to her full-time work in multimedia communications, Reynolds is a wife and mother of three children.

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