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What is the main intent and structure of the competition?

UH Hilo and Hawaii Community College are partnering with HIplan to create an innovative opportunity for students to take the academic knowledge and skills they’ve gained and apply it to real world problems. In particular, the students will identify a problem in our community related to the recovery efforts resulting from the 2018 lava flow, and come up with a viable app-based solution. Students will be provided expert support in the steps necessary. The 2-day competition will include brainstorming of problems, workshops on creative problem-solving, app-design theory and business models, and pitch-deck building / presenting. At the end of the Hackathon, teams will pitch their ideas to a panel of expert judges. This experience models ways that students can potentially approach problem-solving as a way to earn money and create positive change in our community at the same time.

What does participating in the Hackathon entail for students?

Students will be split into eight teams consisting of five members each. Each team member will be responsible for their role of CEO, CFO, CTO, CMO, or CSO. The teams will be made up of students from a variety of majors and campuses (UH Hilo and HawCC). The teams will be tasked with considering multiple problems and multiple solutions before selecting the one they will move forward with. The diversity of the team is a key element of the creative problem-solving process. The expectation is that everyone contributes and the result is something different than would have come out of a homogeneous team. This reflects what we’re seeing in our community where solving problems takes multiple perspectives and areas of expertise to be successful.

Is there a prize awarded for the winning team and what happens to the app-based solutions once the competition is over?

The top three teams will split the $5,000 cash awards. The first place team will receive $2,500, the second place team will split $1,500 and the third place team will split $1,000. When each team has completed the Hackaton, they will have a product concept, a business plan and the skills to seek funding. While our primary goal is to give our students these cutting edge experiences that will help them develop skills and abilities that are highly desirable in today’s market, we would be thrilled to see an actual business or two emerge out of the competition.

How do you hope this event will benefit the community overall?

This is an innovative project unique from most Hackathons, Most Hackathons are built around coding for an industry or to help a business solve a specific problem. Our Hackathon is a business concept development event that focuses on a very real problem facing our community, which requires economic, social, environmental insights, just to name a few. This event both prepares our students to contribute to their community in meaningful and innovative ways, and has the potential to create innovative market-driven businesses in our community. UH Hilo and HawCC have a commitment that goes far beyond the two or four years that our students study with us — we also have a responsibility to help create a community in which they can thrive after graduation. The HIplan Hackathon offers benefits to both students and our community, which is why we’re so excited about it!