HackHer413, the first hackathon for women and non-binary students in the Pioneer Valley, was a resounding success. The event was organized by a team of UMass Amherst students, and sponsored by twenty-four organizations, including the Center for Data Science and several of its industry affiliate partners. HackHer413 attracted 650 applications from across the globe, with 300 converging on the UMass Amherst campus to devote a mid-February weekend to intensive learning, building, coding, and collaborating. The conference was attended by students from various interdisciplinary fields, spanning computer science, mathematics, biological sciences, business, economics, engineering, and humanities and fine arts.
Organizers were very successful in achieving their primary objective of creating a fully diverse and inclusive environment for women and non-binary students. Katie House, HackHer413’s founder and student director, said “I could never have anticipated the overwhelming amount of support I received from my university, family and friends, industry contacts, community, planning team, connections, and peers. I could not have done this without the help from hundreds of individuals who believed in the mission to make technology more inclusive and representative of everyone.”
The event also provided opportunities for attending industry sponsors to connect with the participating students, increase brand awareness, and recruit talent. For example, Bose provided training on their open APIs, Google offered a demo and tutorial on their Cloud API, and MassMutual led a workshop on machine learning techniques. Wayfair representatives commented that they have found hackathons to be excellent venues to spot talent. Many of the participating sponsors first learned of HackHer413 when they encountered Katie at the HackHer413 table at the CDS Career Mixer last November. We are grateful that so many of our industry partners chose to sponsor HackHer413. In the future, we will be increasing our efforts to promote area events like HackHer413 to our affiliate members, in order to serve as a gateway to additional opportunities for student engagement.