By Angela A. Aponte
Special to News is my Business
The second edition of Puerto Rico’s biggest student-run hackathon, “HackPR,” took place over the weekend in Mayagüez, allowing technology amateurs and professionals showcase their skills before big name companies like Microsoft and Google, and also to local start-ups that are in the lookout for new talent that can satisfy their technological needs.
Company representatives got a first-hand look at participants working on either a free topic project or a specific problem that each corporation proposed to be solved. This platform also served as a place where the enterprises could display their own technological developments so contestants could use them during the competition.
The teams could either make something new with the products or better them. If company representatives liked what they saw, they could buy the end results or employ the developers to implement the ideas for them.
“For companies, it is all about relationships. It is like a meritocracy, where you bring your best engineer [to these hackathons], and they actually have to help mentor and help a team to achieve some large problem,” said technology media outlet TechCrunch.
“You don’t need to interview the candidates, you are seeing them right there at crunch time. You don’t need to evaluate them, because your engineer is experiencing the person live,” the outlet said.
The event was a community-based project where developers and programmers from all over Puerto Rico — and from various levels of expertise — collided in small teams to design mobile, web, native, and hardware applications during a 24-hour period.
In addition to being able to export their projects to attending companies, which also sponsored the event, the teams could have opted to develop their goods even further and on a greater scale after the hackathon to commercialize them.
HackPR is a student initiative that originated in 2012 and was further developed in 2013, when more than 100 people attended, by a group that realized that most programming and developing events took place in the metro area, but there were no similar offerings in the western side of the island even though many students live there while studying in related fields at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez.
“During HackPR, participants meet people and mentors that can help them with their ideas in the future. And that’s what we want to create, [a community] where people can meet and network, even high school students who are interested in technology fields and programming, but don’t know anyone because they don’t teach this at their schools,” said HackPR’s Vice President Wigberto Maldonado.
Maldonado also explained that high school alumni have a chance to meet college students enrolled in their fields of interest who may later become their mentors when they enter college. Meanwhile, college students meet diverse companies and learn about different options that exist when entering the working world.
He assured that many people believe that technology work is limited to tech companies, but the reality is that even banks need developing and programming professionals. Goldman Sachs, Etsy, Polsense, SendGrid, Honeywell Aerospace of Puerto Rico, Inc., Parse+Facebook, and the Government’s Chief Information Office, were in attendance.