BLUE1647 Documentary: The power of the Hackathon


In the parlance of developers a hackathon is a short-term event designed to bring together like-minded individuals—sometimes from the same expertise and sometimes from a diverse set of capabilities. At a hackathon developers, makers, hardware hackers and creative thinkers come together to complete a project, which they must conceive, design, and implement on deadline. Since many of these events occur over a weekend many hackathons last 24 or 48 hours.

Building on this concept, BLUE1647, an entrepreneurship and technology innovation center in Chicago, has put together a series of 48 hour hackathon events with the intention of bringing together diverse, undeserved communities to network and showcase technological talent amid community youth. One of these 48 hour hackathons, which took place at the Kitty Anderson Youth Science Center, was recorded and documented by Joseph Chopin of Chopin Productions and 99 Years Studios, LLC.

Hackathons have a variety of purposes, prominent amid those purposes is bringing together talented people from across the community and giving them a space to work together. The restrictive deadline is designed to give groups a “ticking clock” forcing them out of comfort zones and to rely on one another for support and expertise.

As an educational environment, a hackathon works to give talented community members a reason to pass along their knowledge in a structured atmosphere that isn’t as formal or restrictive as a classroom. In the BLUE1647 Hackathon documentary this is seen as being used to put together young adults who otherwise might not meet on these sort of projects in school (which rarely have the facilities needed to support a hacking jam session).

In the documentary, one young adult, named Jayce, speaks to how his diagnosis of ulcerative colitis—a painful inflammation of the digestive tract—and a resulting three-month stay in the hospital gave him the inspiration to seek out a cure for this disease because it has no known cure. A hackathon such as the one put on by BLUE1647 would put him in contact with a wide variety of other inspired individuals from numerous professions, giving him access to their knowledge and skills later on as he progresses his search.

While it is true that today’s hackers and makers have broad access to the Internet via smartphones and computers–and thus developer communities via forums, Facebook, Twitter, and other resources—lasting human endeavors often arise out of communication and focus. A hackathon not only provides a medium of communication (which is extended via Faceook and forums) but also a regulated environment to deliver that focus.

At the end of the hackathon the groups of hackers and makers who came together also have a product that they can put on a shelf (physical or virtual) and a lasting bond to the other people they worked with.

BLUE1647: Technology and community coming together

More hackathons are planned through the end of the year by BLUE1647. The group has its largest presence in Chicago, IL and it is possible to become a member to help support efforts such as the hackathon seen above.

Basic membership, Blue Membership, opens up community collaboration and support for $25/month in a limited time offer. Membership Plus is for organizations who want to hold classes and need facilities and support for educational or outreach support at $250/month. Finally, those makers and hackers who have started their own businesses but don’t have the capital to move into a big office building can get private offices for $450/month—it is noted this is ideal for small businesses with up to four employees.

Any readers interested, who live in the area, can apply for membership at the BLUE1647 page.

Featured image: Via Chopin Productions video “Blue 1647: 48 Hour Hackathon (OFFICIAL) Mini-Documentary