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PCC student markets cutting-edge technology through hackathons

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A “hackathon” is not about cyber security breaches. It’s about computer coding, sleep deprivation, pizza and a race against the clock for very cool prizes. For Rock Creek Campus student Eric Thomas, it’s an opportunity to meet techies from around the country and play with apps and hardware to create new applications built from scratch in a 40-hour, non-stop, insanely competitive marathon. And it all started with engineering boot camp.

Eric Thomas works his magic during a recent hackathon.

Eric Thomas works his magic during a recent hackathon.

Thomas participated in the 2013 Ultimate Engineering Experience sponsored by Intel and hosted by the Rock Creek Campus. The program teaches students about computer application development, robotics and how to act like entrepreneurs. Throughout the six weeks of workshops and coursework, students are mentored by Intel engineers and PCC faculty. PCC faculty also connect with Intel to learn current industry practices. For Thomas it was his membership in a hacking team that drew Intel’s attention. The company invited him to attend a three-day game developer conference in Berkeley, Calif., where participants had to design and program wearable games. That experience led to national hackathons.

At Yale University’s hackathon in October and at the University of California-Berkeley in November, Thomas worked as a mentor, assisting students with hardware and programming.

“The Yale hackathon was massive,” he said. “With around 170 projects submitted, we occupied three stories in a building on Yale’s West Campus. Think air mattresses, computers, and stacks of pizza boxes.”

Yale’s YHack 2014 web invitation says: “Join over 1,500 undergraduate and high school students for a weekend of hacking. It’s the perfect opportunity to meet and learn from other like-minded hackers, all the while honing your own skills. Create a mobile app to stop world hunger, learn the hottest new JavaScript frameworks, implement a hardware hack that revolutionizes the wearables industry… or just do something for the lulz.”

If you’re a techie, the invite is hard to resist.

Hackathons are typically sponsored by industries and hosted by colleges and universities. Companies provide new software and hardware to students to learn how they interact with the product and to determine marketability. Students also get a chance to build something that could become marketable.

“At Yale I was the third member of the Intel party,” he said. “We handed out Intel’s Gen 2 Galileo Board to see how teams would use them.”

Thomas helped with a wireless armband product that connected electrodes to a computer connected to a board that allowed hand/arm signals to control the lights and sounds in a room. Another team devised a product that attached to the bottom of a skateboard and signaled the rider turn directions.

“I volunteered to set up and run the printer throughout the event,” he said. “Yale voted me as the Best Mentor!”

At the Intel-sponsored Space Hackathon at Berkeley, Calif., hackers could work on one of three projects. CanSat, a satellite the size of a soda can equipped with a recovery system; on ARLISS, (A Rocket Launch for International Student Satellites) which asks students to build a robot to fly in a rocket and eject at peak to find its way to a goal post; or design a biology research platform for microgravity experiments on the International Space Station. The Space hackathons opportunities were created by with Intel sponsorship.

When Thomas is at the Rock Creek campus, he works as the lead student in the STEAM Lab in Building 7. He helps people with 3D printing, 3D scanning, laser cutting and design software.

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Sorry, but the comments have been closed. If you see something that doesn't belong, please click the x and report it.

x by Linda Browning 2 years ago

Congratulations on your accomplishments, Eric! And thank you for all the work you have put into our Maker Space at Sylvania.

x by Nic Parsons 2 years ago

Teach me your ways!

x by Eric Thomas 2 years ago

Thanks, Linda.
Hey Nic there is an Intel hackathon coming up in Seattle.
11th & 12th of Feb.

x by alejandra dominguez 2 years ago

Congratulations Thomas!:)You’re an example and a lead to follow in promoting more students to join more tech fields without the fear of it.Good luck!:)

x by Guylain 2 years ago

Good Job Eric & Keep it up. Wish you the best always

x by PCC student Eric Thomas proving to be an effective hack | PCC News 2 years ago

[…] latest news in a long list of happenings in the hackathon world. PCC recently hosted hackathons at Rock Creek and Sylvania campuses, organized by […]


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