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11.09.2020 | News & Events

University of Virginia and Maxar Code Together at Girls Hoo Hack 2020

By: Patricia Burns, Front End Developer, Maxar Technologies

Read Time: 4 minutes

Maxar launched a new Academic Outreach Program in 2020 with a mission of “inspiring students and faculty by sharing Maxar’s story, fostering the adoption of its technology and advancing collaborative opportunities.” Under this program, the University Committee collaborates with leading higher education institutions to advance innovative research and development. The University Committee helped organize and sponsor this hackathon.

Staying connected, mentoring and networking have possibly never been more challenging than during the age of COVID-19. However, hosting a successful virtual coding hackathon over two days ended up being an invigorating experience for both the students and the mentors.

University of Virginia’s chapter of Girls Who Code approached Maxar with a mission to support a 48 hour hackathon focused on "action-oriented projects that reflect innovation, diverse perspectives and empowerment.” Girls Who Code is an organization that works to empower historically underrepresented groups in technology by uniting women and women supporters in STEM. The group asked that Maxar team members demonstrate how women continue to gain ground in STEM-related fields, become a helpful and encouraging resource for the next generation of women in STEM and provide valuable insight into current trends and technologies within the technical community. Students attended breakout sessions—both networking and learning—while creating cohesive projects with friends and strangers in 48 hours.

More than 250 students from around the globe participated in this hackathon, Girls Hoo Hack. Three projects were specifically recognized in the following categories:

● Women Empowerment: And That’s on PERIOD!

● Education: Enchantress of Numbers Match Games

● Best Beginner: From English

The above screenshot shows the landing page for the app “And That’s on PERIOD!” that won the Women Empowerment category for the Girls Hoo Hack Hackathon at UVA 2020. This app educates young women about their bodies.

An excerpt of the demo of the matrix addition game from ‘‘Enchantress of Numbers Match Games,” the winner of the Education category.

An all-black female cohort developed an app called “From English,” which won the Best Beginner category. The app was designed to help users tackle the unique challenges of learning a new language, starting with the basics of the alphabet and progressing into tongue twisters.

Maxar team members from across the business mentored, taught technical and soft skills sessions and judged completed projects. The 21 Maxar team members who volunteered specialized in subject matters such as satellite flight software, DevSecOps, data science, geospatial software and front-end development.

Maxar held sessions on a diverse array of topics including:

● “Introduction to Free and Open Source Software and components of OpenStreetMap (OSM)” by Milla Zagorski

● “Apache NiFi” by Adanna Vardian

● "Introduction to DevOps/DevSecOps” by Marjorie Lynum

● “Working Together on Common Humanitarian Goals with Maxar” by Clarisse Abalos

● “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning” by Jennifer Horowitz and Todd Bacastow

● “Data Science Overview” with Olivia Blute and Natalia Agudelo

● “Front-End Development Overview” by Laura Webb, Kimberly and Patricia Burns

Maxar’s Marjorie Lynum presented to the Girls Hoo Hack participants about Continuous Integration and Delivery.

Additionally, Maxar hosted a career panel with an entry-level front-end developer, a chemical engineer who became a software engineer working in flight software, a principal engineer and a chief architect working in DevSecOps with more than 20 years' experience in the government and private sector.

The hackathon proved to be a great opportunity for students to connect with each other and industry professionals, laugh via Zoom, share feedback and work on a new project outside their regular assignments.

For projects completed during the hackathon visit https://girlshoohack2020.hackerearth.com/.

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