Digital Women host first annual hackathon event at Iowa State



Emma Hovick

Digital Women, a student organization at Iowa State that encourages, supports and retains women in career fields related to electrical technology, will host its first event April 7.

The event, dubbed Code Camp, will be the first female-focused “hackathon” in the Midwest. The event will last 24 hours. Participants are encouraged to stay for the duration. It will strongly focus on female empowerment — emphasizing learning and collaboration versus cooperation, according to a release from the student organization. 

A hackathon is a design sprint-like event in which computer programmers collaborate intensively on software projects. Competitors are given a certain amount of time to build a project. There are typically prizes associated and they’re usually very competitive. Projects do not have to be complicated. Digital women decided to make the event more collaborative than competitive.

What’s different about Code Camp, versus a traditional hackathon, is that Digital Women plans to pair each team with a mentor. 

“One of the shortcomings of a traditional hackathon is a lot of people sign up, show up and leave,” said Ashley Dvorsky, senior in computer engineering. “They either don’t stick around or don’t finish their project, we are hoping by mentoring team pairing that we will be able to group people with similar interests together and hopefully have a better project submission rate.”

Dvorsky said hackathon events typically don’t get anywhere close to 50 percent female attendance. In the fall of 2016, Iowa State computer engineering was at 7.7 percent, electrical engineering was at 10 percent, software engineering was at 11.5 percent and computer science was at 8.6 percent female population, according to Digital Women’s press release. 

“The average between all the computing based majors is about 11 percent female, which is the national average is 25 percent in the work force,” Dvorsky said. “We are less than average.”

Digital Women will be partnering with Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE), the Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion’s Office and other Iowa State departments and industry sponsors.

“We’re hoping that by having collaborative events like this, that younger women will be able to build skills and feel more confident in their abilities,” Dvorsky said.

Anyone interested in finding more information on the event or joining Code Camp, can do so on the Digital Women website.

“We really want that 1 to 1 team pairing, so that a team has a foundation to stand on,” said Aimee Pierce, senior in chemical engineering. “That’s one thing that makes us unique, moderately guaranteeing mentoring at the event.”

Closing ceremonies of the event will be at 6 p.m. April 8. Code Camp will take place in 1313 Coover Hall.