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2nd annual WiCHacks brings together current and future programmers


By Fran Broderick

On February 21st, Women in Computing (WiC) hosted their 2nd annual WiCHacks event, bringing together college- and high school-aged female programmers for an all-day hackathon. The event brought 65 participants to RIT’s Student Innovation Center where RIT students and professors, as well as engineers from sponsors like Microsoft and Google, helped attendees develop a range of apps.

“It was a great weekend of learning, inventing and creating the future,” explained WiC Director Lana Verschage. “The Newbie Track was an opportunity for high school women who had little to no programming knowledge to learn basic programming skills.”

RIT alumnus Christopher Hossenlopp ‘12 returned to campus for the event, representing MITRE Corp. where he now works. Hossenlopp concurred with Verschage, stating, “events such as WiCHacks is important because they give young women an opportunity to code and gain tech/teamwork skills without the pressure of being one of the only girls in the room.”

For many students, WiCHacks provided their first introduction to programming during a “Newbie” track that demonstrated basic programming skills. More seasoned programmers competed for a range of awards that included “Best in Show” sponsored by Constant Contact, “Most Innovative” sponsored by Fidelity, the “Rookie Award” sponsored Xerox and “Best Microsoft Hack.”

The “Best Microsoft Hack” award went to a cross-disciplinary team of students that included Leslie Bowen (electrical engineering), Paige Satterly (new media design), Melissa Young (game design and development), and Maggie Hewitt (software engineering). The team developed a tool that helped recommend songs for singing auditions based on a users age and vocal range.

“I’m really grateful for the engineers from Microsoft and Google who provided technical guidance throughout the event and everyone on my team who worked tirelessly,” said Hewitt. “Overall, WiCHacks was an incredible opportunity to work alongside and network with a wide spectrum of talents and educational backgrounds.”

WiC has developed a number of events aimed at engaging more young women in computing, including workshops for middle school- and elementary school- aged children. WiCHacks is the largest of these events and sold out shortly after tickets went on sale.

“The ideas the women bring to life are unique, innovative, and impactful, “ said Google rep Caitlin Merrell. “We’re already looking forward to 2016.”