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College of Media to co-host women's hackathon, symposium with PBS MediaShift

Hack the Gender Gap: A Women Hackathon on WearablesThere’s a serious gender gap when it comes to media and technology. That’s why the West Virginia University Reed College of Media and PBS MediaShift are partnering to co-host a bi-coastal gathering of women to brainstorm new ways for women to break the silicon ceiling.

“This is one of the most important issues affecting women leaders in tech and media right now,” said Maryanne Reed, dean of the College of Media. “We want to spark a national conversation about the barriers facing women in technology, and we want to inspire young women to push beyond those boundaries by connecting them to women leaders in Silicon Valley.”

“Hack the Gender Gap: A Women’s Hackathon on Wearables” will bring college-age women from around the country to WVU to “hack” solutions for wearable technology and to learn about opportunities in this emerging marketplace, while being mentored by prominent female leaders in the industry.

The three-day event kicks off Friday, Oct. 24, with a Women of Technology symposium hosted at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California (5:30 p.m. PT / 8:30 p.m. EST). Hackathon participants at the College of Media’s new Media Innovation Lab on WVU’s downtown campus will participate in a live broadcast and interactive discussion with the panelists at Google. Panelists include:

  • Amy Webb (moderator): Digital media futurist, CEO of Webbmedia Group, and cofounder of Spark Camp.
  • Jane Schachtel: Facebook’s global head of mobile and tech strategy and Microsoft’s former social media director for Bing and MSN.
  • Laura Michelle Berman: Co-inventor of the highly-anticipated Melon, a headband with biometric sensors to help improve productivity and designed to change the way we think.
  • Aminatou Sow: Co-founder of Tech LadyMafia and product marketing manager at Google.
  • Tasneem Raja: Interactive editor at Mother Jones.
  • Val Aurora: Co-founder of the Ada Initiative and a programmer, writer and feminist activist.

Dean Reed will give a welcome and introduction to the Google-hosted panel via Google Hangouts On Air, and hackathon participants will tweet questions to the panelists during the symposium.

The hackathon will continue through the day and late into the evening on Saturday, Oct. 25, as participants work in teams to envision, map and pitch a start-up use for Google Glass or other wearable technology that delivers a singular idea, product, service or process to solve a problem in the media industry.

Dana Coester, creative director for the College’s upcoming Media Innovation Center, says the event is designed to be more than a traditional hackathon, which are usually focused on coding and building products. This one will emphasize collaboration, team-building and entrepreneurship.

“In the spirit of breaking boundaries, we want a more diverse set of voices problem-solving and envisioning opportunities for the wearables market,” said Coester.

WVU’s hackathon and its emphasis on wearables were recently featured in an article on Fast Company.

The hackathon will feature a network of on-site speakers and mentors leading student teams, including Hilary Topper, Glass Explorer and producer of “Glasslandia” (the first Google Glass reality show), and CEO for HJMT Public Relations; Umbreen Bhatti, lawyer and journalism entrepreneur; and Nikki Bowman, founder and owner of New South Media Inc.

In addition to groups across disciplines at WVU, the hackathon has attracted participants from Georgetown, Syracuse and Howard universities.

On Sunday morning, Oct. 26, participants will present their ideas to a panel of judges from media and technology industries. The winning team will get a platform for their wearables concept that includes a series of articles on the PBS MediaShift site and will be connected to a national network of women leaders in the technology industry.

The Friday night symposium will be broadcast live on the PBS MediaShift website (www.pbs.org/mediashift). Others can follow along and tweet questions for panelists at #gendergap.

The hackathon is sponsored by Mozilla OpenNews, which connects a global network of developers, journalists, makers and hackers to collaborate on innovative code and new ideas. They believe a community of peers working, learning and solving problems together can create the tools journalism needs to thrive on the open Web.

Details about and registration for the event can be found on the PBS MediaShift website and the WVU Reed College of Media website.