If the word “hacker” is mentioned in the opening words of a story, odds are your first thoughts are of a nefarious individual wearing a Guy Fawkes mask breaking into computer networks for personal gain. However, there are hackers in today’s world whose tech savvy actually helps people. These are the “white hat” hackers. Round them up for a two-day event to benefit nonprofit organizations and what you have is a hackathon.
During Avnet’s second annual Global Month of Service in October, Avnet partnered with PayPal to host such an occasion, the fourth annual Arizona Opportunity Hack event in which nonprofit organizations received free solutions to their most pressing business and technology needs.
PayPal organizes a number of these events around the U.S. and India. This particular hackathon was held in Chandler, Ariz., USA, not far from Avnet’s corporate office in Phoenix. American Express and Tech Shop Chandler also supported the event, which provided help to 18 local nonprofits. In this context, hackers were collaborating and using information and technology that’s freely available to create something that’s valuable to others.
About 100 hackers showed up, with the majority coming from nearby Arizona State University. “College students often participate in hackathons like these not only to win prizes, but to do something good for the community. They also end up learning some new technology from their peers,” says Toni Ramsey, Avnet community involvement program manager.
Avnet’s involvement in the hackathon included providing volunteers who served as subject matter experts (SME), technology consultants, judges, and HR representatives to host the Avnet HR recruitment table.
“This was my first experience helping at a ‘hacking for good’ type event,” said Kevin K., Avnet technical marketing engineer. Kevin assisted with technology questions and provided valuable counsel to keep the hackers’ nonprofit solutions moving along. “I thought this was a great event to promote technology. And to my delight, I was also able to dust off my ancient SQL (Structured Query Language) skills and help one of the teams get their website connected to their database. So I really felt like a contributor.”
Avnet judge Shane Nixon (2nd from right) with James Rowley (l), Ji Sung, and Mark Omo (r), winners of the Avnet Security of Things award for designing a data management system during the hackathon.
Avnet’s contributions to the event included more than just tangible prizes. Ramsey explains that Avnet providing subject matter experts, judges and networking capabilities are great draws for the hackers. “That’s what makes it such a cool event. This sponsorship means so much more to Avnet because of our presence there and because we are real partners in the event.”
Arizona Opportunity Hack is also a win for the nonprofits as each received free assistance for their tech-based needs. In addition, a few groups made arrangements for lower-cost help in the future. “Some of the organizations were so thrilled with the help they received that they invited whoever was interested to continue working with that group for a small stipend,” says Ramsey.
Avnet is proud to have partnered with PayPal to support this “hacking for good” weekend as it makes a tremendously positive impact in the community. At Arizona Opportunity Hack, the nonprofits received free assistance not only from brilliant minds but from hackers with caring hearts.