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Wednesday, Mar 22, 2023

Hackathon Highlights Innovators

Valley Economic Alliance is looking toward the future, preparing college and high school students for the workforce through its second Valley Hackathon. The Sherman Oaks-based business development group will host the event Sept. 23 at California State University, Northridge, where students will apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to solve a real-world challenge. “When businesses hire recent graduates, they notice three skills that are lacking — communication, ethics and teamwork,” said Angela Amirkhanian, economic development senior coordinator for the alliance. “At the Valley Hackathon, students are communicating with their teammates, whom they don’t know, in an ethical way to solve a problem.” About 100 students with an interest in either technology or political science are expected to participate this year, which is twice the size of last year’s competition. Amirkhanian said one of the biggest challenges in regard to the event was getting students to sign up. However, the success of last year’s hackathon spurred teachers to encourage their pupils to participate. The students will be divided into teams and presented with a problem at the beginning of the hackathon. The groups will have several hours to come up with a website or mobile app as a solution. They will present the results to a panel of judges that will include Jeanne Holm, technology advisory in the L.A. mayor’s office; Councilman Mitch Englander; Southern California Gas Co.’s Network Engineering Manager Adam Velardo and others. “Hackathons offer students an action-packed, fast-paced context to apply textbook theories to real-world applications,” said Phillip Kim, associate professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass. “With a clock ticking and potential prize money awaiting, the competition atmosphere can stoke people to go beyond simply thinking about ideas but actually doing something practical about them.” Sponsored by companies like headphone manufacturer V-Moda of West Hollywood, prizes won’t be revealed until winners are announced at the end of the competition. The Valley Economic Alliance also added a networking portion to the program, when students will be able to meet with different companies and organizations with internship and hiring opportunities in the technology field. “I believe for K-12, we (taxpayers) are spending $120,000 per student, but we aren’t doing a very good job keeping them local,” said Amirkhanian. “If we help students find local mentors, colleges and jobs, that benefits the economy.” Schools participating in this year’s event include Burbank High School, Granada Hills Charter High School and California State University, Northridge. – Stephanie Henkel

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