Kellogg to host 24-hour coding marathon this weekend

Jennifer Suh

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Modeled after scenes popularized in Academy Award-winning film “The Social Network,” Northwestern’s first “hackathon,” hosted by a Kellogg School of Managementstudent, will begin Friday at the Technological Institute. The event will bring together student and non-student Chicago-area coders for 24 straight hours of programming.

“Coders (will) come together and program something really cool,” said Matthew Hartman, organizer of the NU hackathon.

With 47 participants already signed up, he said ideally there will be 10 teams.

The winning team ­- the one that creates the most innovative product – will receive $1,500. Other participants will also have the chance to showcase their demos at the Kellogg Technology Conference onSaturday.

As this is the first hackathon at NU, it will be a completely new experience for some.

Kellogg student Shobhit Chugh, one of this weekend’s participants,said he is a beginning programmer but expects to meet people who can help him realize his ideas from the technical side.

The event will be a chance to showcase programmers at NU and allow them to network and brainstorm ideas, Hartman said.

Hartman participated in a hackathon last fall and had a chance to showcase the product to an audience of more than 1,500 people. He said he hopes this weekend’s participants will have the same opportunity.

Several NU alumni will help judge the event. One of the judges, Brad Morehead, Kellogg ’05, described its significance.

“The main thing is to get entrepreneurs and developers and software engineers together so that we can make connections that foster new businesses, faster growing businesses and other ventures,” said Morehead, president of Bolster Security, Inc.

Morehead noted that an NU alumnus launched the online deal-of-the-day giant Groupon in 2008,and said the event is especially important to hold at NU, where he has seen “a lot of outstanding talents.”

Another judge, Alex White, SESP ’08, who was named to Billboard’s “30 Under 30” list of the most powerful young music executives, said 24 hours is actually not much time to work.

“Obviously, in such a small slice of time, you can’t really expect anything too serious or complex,” said White, CEO and co-founder of Next Big Sound, a company that tracks consumers’ music decisions online.

Still, Hartman said the event could be a “stepping stone” for participants trying to get into the industry.

“I’ll be looking for creativity and promise of what’s to come next,” White said. “A lot of the best ideas start very simply. It’s only over time that (they) grow more complex. We’re looking for the promise.”