DC students tackle sustainability challenge at inaugural DC Hackathon

Durham College (DC) students got a chance to flex their problem-solving muscles and confront a major sustainability challenge this week when they took part in the first-ever DC Hackathon on April 26. The event, which took place at the college’s Oshawa campus in conjunction with DC’s annual Research Day, was hosted by FastStartDC, an entrepreneurship training program offered by the college, and co-sponsored by a number of local organizations including Spark Centre, Bereskin & Parr, GM Canada, ORION, and Durham Regional Economic Development,  the organization tasked with promoting economic growth and development in Durham Region.

For the uninitiated, a hackathon is a short, intensive session where teams are given a problem, and bring their own skills and resources to solve challenges. With support from the college’s sustainability office, the DC Hackathon focused on the impact of climate change and how current patterns of human activity can be changed to promote better environmental sustainability. More than 60 students from DC’s various academic schools participated in the event, where they were divided into teams and encouraged to come up with whatever ideas were feasible to solve the challenge. Whether it was building an app, creating a plan of action, presenting an oral report or designing a product prototype, all options were on the table.

“Our first-ever hackathon was a huge success and really underscored DC’s commitment to give our students the opportunity to take on high-level research challenges,” said Rebecca Holmes, entrepreneurship co-ordinator at FastStart DC. “Sustainability is very important to the college and the students enjoyed meeting their counterparts from many different programs as they worked together and created innovative new ideas to solve the challenge, all in a single day.”

The students weren’t alone as they developed their potential solutions. Holmes said advisors from the hackathon’s sponsors and representatives from other local industry groups were on hand to serve as volunteer mentors for participants, providing advice and serving as a valuable resource throughout the day’s activities.

“I think the day was amazing, it was a lot of fun,” said Brittany Charlton, third-year Law Clerk Advanced student. “I got to meet a lot of new people and tackle a challenging environmental problem. I’d definitely take part again if it were to come up next year.”

All teams who participated in the event were eligible to win valuable prizes, including $1,000 cash, three passes to Discovery 16, a major innovation-to-commercialization conference taking place next month in Toronto, and a swag bag filled with a variety of high-tech goodies. The final results will be announced on Thursday, April 28 as part of DC’s Research Day events.

“Thanks to our sponsors and all the students who participated in today’s event,” said Holmes. “And for those who missed the deadline and weren’t able to participate, rest assured that the FastStart DC team is already planning to make the hackathon an annual event.”