In 2015, Rhetoric, Composition, and the Teaching of English PhD student Maggie Melo attended several hackathons and noticed that they were mostly attended by men. Hackathons offer the challenge of working in an intensely focused way on a technology project in a short amount of time. They also provide a venue to network with mentors. Melo recognized that these were missed opportunities for individuals of other gender identities and expressions. So with the support of Digital Scholarship Librarian Jennifer Nichols, she organized the first Women Techmakers Tucson Hackathon in the Science-Engineering Library. During the free event, participants develop tech-driven projects together over the course of two days. All levels of technical expertise are welcome.
“The Women Techmakers Hackathon is the perfect complement to the Libraries’ work in building multidisciplinary learning communities and technology-rich spaces that are accessible to all,” says Nichols. “Through the iSpace and other services, we aim to provide students and faculty with innovative programming, cutting-edge tools, and opportunities to collaborate with peers and domain experts.”
Two hackathons later, the organizing team consists of former participants, faculty, and students. The twelve of them are preparing for the third hackathon happening this fall. About 200 participants are expected and will travel from universities in Arizona, as well as Mexico. The organizers have scheduled more workshops to accommodate the increased attendance. While there will be new topics like pay negotiation and zines, returning workshops include coding, drone building, and virtual reality. One of Melo’s favorite moments from last year was seeing three generations of women huddled around a computer during a virtual reality workshop.
Melo says: “This year, we're making a concerted effort to embed mentorship and to equip participants with design and project management strategies. It all boils down to creating an even more welcoming environment for participants to build connections and community with one another, and we recognize that mentorship and project management will help with this.” In addition to learning and being challenged, she hopes that everyone will leave feeling empowered by an entire community that supports their technological pursuits.
The third Women Techmakers Tucson Hackathon takes place September 30-October 1.
Thank you to the following sponsors: Google Developers, School of Information, Diversity & Inclusion, Women Techmakers, Code for Tucson, UITS, STEM Learning Center, McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship, College of Education, College of Humanities, Office of Digital Learning, Cakes for Causes, New Frontiers of Sound, and Learning Games Initiative.