Penn State IT providing resources, support for competitors at HackPSU

October 04, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Competitors looking to hone their “hacking” skills and impress potential employers will have access to a full slate of Penn State IT resources when HackPSU, a student-organized, 24-hour hackathon, begins on Saturday, Oct. 6.

Penn State Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Michael Kubit browses student projects during April's HackPSU event at the Business Building.

Penn State Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Michael Kubit browses student projects during April's HackPSU event at the Business Building.

IMAGE: Travis Johnson

The biannual event is expected to draw nearly 1,100 students from multiple colleges and universities to the Business Building at University Park, where Penn State IT staff will be on hand to assist teams working against the clock to create hacks intended to solve real-world problems.

“Partnering with the HackPSU team has provided us with an opportunity to transform our students’ education and help drive digital innovation,” said Michael Kubit, vice president for Information Technology and chief information officer. “It’s rewarding to be a part of an event like this and see what students come up with over 24 hours.”

Once the clock starts, however, things can get stressful — especially with sponsors like Google, General Motors Co. and others looking over students’ shoulders as they work on specially designed challenges.

Teams undoubtedly run into roadblocks, said Kelsie McElroy, HackPSU’s director of sponsorship. Packed into different rooms, hallways and other nooks inside the Business Building, it hadn’t always been easy for teams to get help with their hacks.

A mentoring table staffed by Penn State IT professionals remedied that at April’s hackathon. It’s back this fall and will have experts in system design and software engineering available.

“A lot of companies are there for recruiting, but Penn State IT really takes the time to be there to help students,” McElroy said. “If someone has a technical problem, they can just go to that table and people are so willing to help throughout the whole event. They’re taking time out of their busy weekends when they don’t have to be working to give back to the students.”

They’re also getting an infrastructure boost as well, as Penn State IT is providing temporary upgrades to the wireless environment to ensure an optimal experience for students during the competition.

The HackPSU executive committee has continued to grow its relationship with Penn State IT leadership, and McElroy said that has been invaluable with the planning and execution of the event.

Monthly meetings with Kubit’s office yielded additional sponsorships, judges from IT leadership, and the addition of a design challenge for this semester’s event. Christy Long, who leads Penn State’s Cloud Program, also serves as an adviser to the student group and meets with them weekly.

“That’s probably the biggest resource that they’ve given us — time and help,” McElroy said. “As far as administration and leadership, you never see that. So getting to meet with Michael and everyone from IT, it’s such a unique experience and it’s made me appreciate the University more.”

Last Updated October 04, 2018