In search of the great hack

CMU alumni from GM host company’s first university hackathon

​​​​​​​​​More than 20 Central Michigan University students carrying game remotes, drones, robots and handcrafted 3-D printers gathered with a few CMU alumni from General Motors​ for the automotive company's first university hackathon. ​

A hackathon is a block of time set aside to focus on shaping and testing a project. It is designed to challenge a person's capacity for collaboration and creative problem solving. Participants end the event by presenting their idea to judges or peers who provide additional feedback on their theories and applications.

CMU students spent the 24-hour hackathon working on a broad range of technology-based projects, including the development of computer games, remote-driven robots and smart systems designed to solve common business hurdles.

While some of the projects have been months in the making, others used the event to jump-start the development of a concept. As the hours rolled on, they took time to walk around the room, draw inspiration from others and gather opinions or insights.

In addition to representatives from GM and department of computer science faculty member Tony Morelli, students had access to the skills and knowledge of fellow classmates.

GM also challenged participants to think outside the box by giving students additional factors that could influence the marketability and use of their product. Variables ranged from making a product accessible for a certain age to incorporating environmentally-friendly design, or even tying it in to the election. Students were challenged to find a solution to meet a new need or demand, even if it meant venturing out of their comfort zone.

"Everyone here from GM is a CMU graduate, so it just means that GM is interested in our alumni. They are interested in what CMU is teaching us, and they are scouting us here.​"

 Kellen Reason, a senior from Howell​​

"We want to help students acclimate to the environment we experience every day," GM business analyst and 2015 CMU alumnu​​s Paul Skiba said. "It gives them insight into what it takes to be in the real world and have some fun in the process, too."

The chance to test some of the skills necessary for life after graduation and speak with an employer was an opportunity for which participants were grateful.

"Everyone here from GM is a CMU graduate, so it just means that GM is interested in our alumni," said Kellen Reason, a senior from Howell. "They are interested in what CMU is teaching us, and they are scouting us here."

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Curt Smith
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