Here's How a Hackathon Works

Wednesday, January 9, 2019
McKenna Sawchak, Southeast Missouri State University alumna and GlobalHack events and out-reach manager.
Submitted photo.

Cape Girardeau has its first hackathon happening July 19-21, 2019. At it, coders, nurses, designers — anyone with an interest in improving health care for our community — will be available to come together to create innovative, technology-based health care solutions for the chance to win $50,000 in cash prizes. It’s an event that’s part of a civ tech movement happening across the country.

McKenna Sawchak, Cape Girardeau native who holds a BS in psychology and MBA from Southeast Missouri State University, is the events and outreach manager for GlobalHack in St. Louis, where she organizes hackathons. If you’re interested in participating in Cape Girardeau’s July event, take a cue from Sawchak’s event.

At GlobalHack’s October hackathon — the company’s seventh — the organization hosted 700 participants from across the United States at the Chaifetz Arena. They had 48 hours. Their task? To create technological solutions to challenges experienced by the St. Louis foreign-born population.

Before the hackathon, Sawchak met with community partners to identify the needs of the community. The winning open-source projects, Sawchak says, were ones that consolidated existing resources. Although it seems like a simple solution, Sawchak says it is beneficial for nonprofits who often don’t have the resources to fund technology or developers.

Sawchak stresses: hackathons are not only for people who are part of the computer science and IT world; civic-minded graphic designers, developers and project managers are all needed to work together to create innovative solutions.

“Technology nowadays has so many other facets than just people who sit behind computers,” Sawchak says. “The whole civ tech movement, obviously we’re a big part of that in St. Louis, but it’s really a movement across the United States where technology companies and governments are trying to better communities. … Technology and nonprofits, or technology and government, can coexist, and they can do it very well. That’s what we’re trying to drive here.”