June 15, 2024
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Women Can Hack It at Touro’s Lander College Hackathon

College students from across the tristate collaborate, code and compete at annual all-female STEM event.

(Courtesy of Touro University) Tens of students from 15 colleges in New York and New Jersey gathered at Touro’s Lander College for Women/The Anna Ruth and Mark Hasten School (LCW) last week for the College’s seventh annual all female hackathon. Over the course of 12 hours, the students collaborated with teammates from various colleges in a competition to solve real-world problems faced by companies of all sizes by utilizing coding and creative programming skills. Teams of three to five students huddled together and considered unique solutions to a choice of three challenges provided by the hackathon organizers.

“Take hold of the other women who are sitting here in this room today, because this year, and the next four years in this country, and the next 10 years in the worldour country, this city and our communities will need a lot of smart help,” said keynote speaker, Raquel Schreiber, who runs The Gearworks Group, a business and technology advisor for impact-driven technology. “By virtue of being in this room today, statistically, it’s you. I’m so grateful. And I’m so excited for what you’ll build. Crush it today.”

 

Developing Innovative Solutions

One of the challenges was to develop innovative solutions to mitigate or eliminate bus bunching, the phenomenon in urban public transportation where multiple buses on the same route “bunch” together instead of spreading out over time, which creates long wait times and uneven passenger distribution and overall inefficiency. Another was for the students to create an AI-like software that could provide individualized recommendations for books, films or music based on inferred tastes and preferences to enhance their leisure activities.

“Our goal today was to create a supportive environment for women to enhance their programming skills through hands-on experience, and for them to build confidence in contributing their unique perspectives in solving challenges,” said Chaya Moussia Adry, a junior majoring in finance and computer science, who was one of the organizers of this year’s competition. “The hackathon presents students in tech with valuable networking opportunities, as well as the chance to build a sense of camaraderie and mentorship among participants.”

“I am passionate about shaping a future where women thrive in STEM fields, knowing their contributions are both impactful and necessary,” said Sheila Reiff, a junior majoring in computer science who was also one of the event organizers. “But the hackathon is also about developing teamwork, time management and problem-solving abilities that will serve participants well in their future careers.”

The opportunities for networking were highlighted by the competition’s five judges, all professionals who have worked in the tech sector or in corporate technology departments, including a robotics startup, a FinTech startup, Bank of New York Mellon, L3 Harris (a defense contractor and technology company) and Microsoft.

 

Using Technology to Transform Our Future

When all the challenges were completed, the respective teams made short presentations to the judges, who then asked the students how they had approached the problems, and to showcase their solutions. A team made up of students from Baruch College, Pratt Institute and Farmingdale State College came in first place for the Bus Bunching challenge; another team of students from New York University and Farmingdale State College won for their music recommendation system solution that creates a buddy system based on similar music taste; and a team of students from Lander College for Women and the Lander College of Arts & Sciences won the third challenge, developing innovative algorithms, strategies and solutions for solving various two- and three-dimensional puzzles.

“This hackathon offered a unique opportunity for women across universities to recognize the power they have by collaborating with others to solve problems and create new technology products,” said Dr. Marian Stoltz-Loike, dean of Touro’s Lander College for Women. “The hackathon helps build confidence in our abilities to use technology to transform the future.”

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