Nonprofit Preps Students for App Building Hackathon

Students learned how to build an app from beginning to end.

by Heather Mongilio, Carroll County Times, Westminster, Md. / February 21, 2017 0

(TNS) — For the 50 high school and college students crowded in Hill Hall at McDaniel College, Saturday was all about learning to build an application from the ground up.

Westminster-based technology innovation nonprofit Mid-Atlantic Gigabit Innovation Collaboratory, or MAGIC, held a hackathon workshop at the college to help prepare students for a hackathon next weekend.

In total, 60 kids were registered, and all but 10 showed up, an amount that blew away MAGIC Executive Director Jason Stambaugh.

"It's a big event, so I couldn't believe the interest," Stambaugh said.

The nonprofit partnered with Hampstead technology company ByteLion to bring in several teachers, including ByteLion founder Terrance MacGregor, to demonstrate the different aspects of building a web or mobile application, including front-end and back-end coding, designing, and pitching.

For four hours, the participants got a crash course in everything they would need for the next weekend's big event.

"It seems like the energy is good," Stambaugh said. "It seems students are excited that this is happening here."

Brandon Cortese, 21, is a senior at McDaniel. He's working in a group for the hackathon to build an app that would help connect people trying to sell books on campus.

He had learned website coding languages HTML and CSS on his own, but he said he's gotten a lot of new tools and text editors out of the workshop.

The hackathon allows people to get a chance to develop their ideas, and "everyone has an idea," Cortese said. The workshop also allowed people to get technical skills that are beneficial, he added.

"I think everyone should learn, especially with technology being a huge part of the world," Cortese said.

Technology's immense role in the world is one of the reasons MAGIC brought the hackathon to Carroll County. The nonprofit is working to bring more technology companies and teach more people with coding and computer science skills, said Dr. Robert Wack, who sits on MAGIC's board of directors.

Carroll is in a unique position because it has a broadband infrastructure unlike other surrounding counties, he said, adding that Westminster has a fiber network powered by Ting.

And while Carroll doesn't fit the mold of the typical tech hubs like Silicon Valley in California or Washington, D.C., it produces a lot of talent. MAGIC is working to both increase the talent and bring more places to hire it, Wack said.

"So jobs and workers go together. It's a chicken and egg thing," he said.

One of the companies that made the move to Carroll was ByteLion, MacGregor said. He has tech startups in the D.C. metropolitan area, but he decided to bring one of the companies to Hampstead.

He's hiring from the local talent, and the county also has a family environment not always in the other cities.

"We figure this is a great area to be in because they're great people here," MacGregor said.

MacGregor said he's looking forward to seeing what ideas the participants pitch next Sunday. Those who came out today are lucky because the type of crash-course training they received isn't always available, he said.

"Most professionals will never get this background, from end to end, how to build an app," he said.

And while there were participants that were already in college, like Cortese, the workshop also brought younger talent -- the youngest attendee was 13.

Age doesn't matter because everyone benefits from understanding how technology works, MacGregor said.

"Bill Gates started when he was 13. So did (Mark) Zuckerberg," he said.

heather.mongilio@carrollcountytimes.com

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If you go

What: MAGIC Hackathon

When: 5:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26

Where: Hill Hall, McDaniel College

More: Teams will pitch their apps starting at 3 p.m.

©2017 the Carroll County Times (Westminster, Md.), distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.