By Aislinn Keely
The second floor of the Fordham Foundry transformed on Saturday as directions, schedules and web addresses filled the chalkboards around students participating in a marathon of tech business building: Hack the Foundry. From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. students of business and computer science backgrounds came together to work on fledgling ideas in competition, but more importantly, collaboration. Projects focused on linking the average consumer with specific small businesses through web developments, requiring both a business and tech innovation.
The challenge? To “create a program or hack that can help small businesses in the area,” according to its mission statement. The prize? $225 and an opportunity to develop ideas with other creative and motivated people.
Participants met in the morning and formed teams of varying sizes and skill sets. The ultimate winner was a one man team, though. Nicholas DiBari, FCRH ’17, of the Fordham Computer Society (CSS) created a program that analyzed song lyrics to determine sentiment. In the framework of a business tool, it can help small businesses create playlists tailored to a positive sentiment. DiBari said he believes that positive music will have a positive influence on business.
“Hacking, in our terms, is putting together a program,” said Anthony Parente, GSB ’19, vice president of entrepreneurship society. “Really, it’s just a competition to create cool things.”
The hackathon was part of Local Hack Day, organized by Major League Hacking, a company that assists local organizers in putting together local hacking events. The Foundry’s hackathon encouraged students to “think about the problems they face and how your solution could help them generate profit,” according to the mission statement.
The Fordham Entrepreneurship Society, CSS and host Fordham Foundry collaborated in organizing the event, making it appealing to both those focused in computer science and those with business cultivating skill sets.
In some cases, business builders with no computer science experience were able to find a team to build their idea, and likewise, those with computer science skills did not have to build the business model of their program.
“A lot of people aren’t super competitive, they’re just trying to find like-minded people to work on projects,” said Michael Gonzales, FCRH ’18, vice president of the Fordham Computer Science Society.
The panel of judges consisted of the CSS President, the Fordham Foundry Co-Chair and Director of the Concourse Group.
Throughout the day there were periodic activities including a cup-stacking event and an After The Hack event to provide business advice for program builders.
CSS has rallied the troops for hackathons at other universities in the past. In 2014 participated in a hackathon at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, but no Fordham students won.
Hackathons provide a space for dialogue and learning exchange. Not everyone in attendance aimed to build a project for the competition. Many used the time to discuss ideas and work on skills related to other projects.
“We’re not really working on a project per say,” said Elana Tee, FCLC ’17 as she and Aurielle Catron, Marketing Director of the Fordham Computer Science Society, FCLC ’17, discussed coding. “We’re kind of just working together.”