Hackathons Attract Bright Software Minds

Competitions display college students’ love for coding

Information technology is evolving rapidly, and U.S. government agencies and businesses must find talent with modern IT skills for their workforce. Some of today’s technology innovators can be found at hackathons, where hundreds of talented university students compete in software engineering and programming challenges. 

In late September, SAIC was a sponsor of two hackathons: RamHacks at Virginia Commonwealth University and VolHacks at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. There, students imagined, built, and deployed functional apps on the fly, and our employees served as mentors to help and energize them.

“For the students who participated in these hackathons, this is their passion,” said Marcy Rich, an SAIC Resource Director VP. “They love to code, and we wanted to interact with them. We told them about the work that SAIC does, and they understood. We speak the same language.”    

That language consists of Agile development, DevOps, microservices, cloud, and other cutting-edge techniques. These skills are particularly in demand at SAIC, as we support our customers’ IT modernization efforts amid the digital transformation that is sweeping the government. 

university students compete in sotware enginerring and programming challenges
University students gather at Virginia Commonwealth University to take part in a 24-hour programming marathon.

Hackathons give agile development a literal meaning

The hackathons, run by students in the universities’ respective computer science departments, attracted a mix of computer science, engineering, and management information systems majors from other schools in and out of state. 

They formed small teams—many as strangers--and worked intensely through day and night on challenges, some created by the sponsors, brainstorming and improvising.  

Carl Lauderdale, an SAIC software engineering manager, was impressed with the students. 

“During their breaks, even those who didn’t work on our challenge came by or stopped us in the hallways and asked questions,” he said. “We were able to lend advice to some really smart and technical young people.” 

A team of four from Charlotte and Morrisville, North Carolina, won the challenge that we presented at VolHacks.

“The winning team is bright and full of potential,” said Software Engineer Matt Cascio, one of our volunteers. “They implemented a technology that they had no experience with, under pressure. We witnessed leadership, technical skill, and a desire to learn in an undeniably massive effort.”

One of the team’s members expressed interest in working at SAIC, and we offer internships and employment opportunities for bright minds to do meaningful work not only in software but all types of technology.

SAIC software and cyber team members at the RamHacks hackathon
An SAIC team, including software and cyber engineers, helps out at RamHacks as part of our sponsorship.

Colin Mawhinney, VolHacks’ organizer, who is pursuing his computer science degree at UT Knoxville, thanked SAIC. “SAIC’s support helped make the event great. We had an amazing time and look forward to continued support in the future!.”

Learn more about hackathons at RamHacks, VolHacks, and Major League Hacking.