Hackathon will connect campus, Eugene startup communities

A new event taking place over the weekend of April 10-11 seeks to create connections and inspire collaboration between faculty and students at the University of Oregon and the growing tech/startup community in the Eugene-Springfield area.

Hosted by the UO’s Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation (OVPRI) in collaboration with Fertilab Thinkubator, a local non-profit startup incubator, the “Idea Hackathon” will be organized around the theme “sensors, any kind, any way.”

Participants are encouraged to bring their sensor ideas to the event where they will join other students, faculty, and entrepreneurs from the community for conversations intended to help them start refining their ideas and begin mapping a possible path for their venture.

“Ideas for sensors may be mechanical, like a bike counter, biochemical like toxin detection, or may be focused on an interface or system for distributing or coordinating that information,” said Sarah Allison, a graduate teaching fellow helping organize the event. “The theme is intentionally broad so people can bring as many different ideas as possible to the event.”

According to Allison, the ability to precisely measure the world around us has given rise to many new opportunities.

“It would be great to see some of these ideas develop in to startups,” said Allison. “Even if the specific ideas don’t move forward, we hope some teams might use this activity as a springboard to launch some other venture with the people they meet.”

The event is organized as part of RAIN@UO, a growing network of faculty and students at the University of Oregon who are interested in innovation, technology, and startups. The program is an extension of the Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network (RAIN), a state-backed consortium of entrepreneurs, upper education, the business community, and local governments to grow startups in the South Willamette Valley. The local branch of the network, RAIN Eugene, supports an accelerator program for local startup companies.

We talked with Allison to learn more about what to expect at the hackathon.

What happens at a hackathon? What should people expect?

The word "hackathon" (short for hack marathon) comes from software developers, who would set up events to collaborate on a focused topic and create useable software. The idea is to come at a project from multiple angles for an intense period of time to take it from a notion or a problem to a useable product.

Why is a hackathon a great format for discussing ideas?

It encourages people to build on each other’s strengths as they toss around an idea. It also provides a space to “think big” as a group and task risks while exploring the viability of an idea.

How will people benefit by attending?

Attendees will get a chance to network with other people excited about innovation and contribute to moving an idea forward. Those ideas might develop into ventures, or may inspire a completely different project. This is also an opportunity to think through what makes an idea a successful, how to launch a venture, and get guidance from experienced mentors.

What do you all hope to accomplish by holding this event?

We hope to draw together students, faculty, and entrepreneurs from the community for a diverse mix of ideas and perspectives. We want to spark more collaboration and exchange between the tech and startup community in the Eugene-Springfield area and faculty and students at the University of Oregon.

How can people get involved?

You can sign up for the event by visiting research.uoregon.edu/hackathon. If you would like to stay connected to innovation events happening at the UO, you can visit research.uoregon.edu/rain and sign up for one of our mailing lists. The first event will start at 5pm on Friday, April 10 on the fifth floor of the PeaceHealth North Building near campus.