UH-Hilo, HCC students participate in virtual HIplan Hackathon

The University of Hawaii at Hilo has long been recognized for the diversity of its student body, and on the weekend of April 4-5, UH-Hilo and Hawaii Community College students really learned how important that diversity is in approaching solutions to local problems.

In planning for over a year, UH-Hilo and HCC collaborated with HIplan Executive Director Jason Ueki and the BizGenics Foundation to offer a HIplan Hackathon for students.

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The goals were to develop students’ understanding of how to conceptualize and design a business concept for an app-based solution to a real community issue, which centered on the recovery efforts around the 2018 lava flow.

Roughly 50 students from both campuses had initially registered for the face-to-face event, which had to be completely restructured as a virtual event due to COVID-19. Since many students had returned home or experienced a shift in priorities, 15 students participated in the online event, spanning the globe from Hawaii Island to Spain.

The students worked with mentors who shared their extensive knowledge in business and technology to develop the teams’ concepts, business plans and pitches. The teams then pitched their concept and answered questions from a panel of judges.

For some, the online format might have been helpful.

Makamae Kamaka-Mauhili, a UH Hilo freshman studying Business and Women’s Studies, reflected, “I am someone who tends to stay in the background, but with my team, I was able to emerge from my shell and share what I thought comfortably. Since it was virtual, in my opinion it was easier for us to work together.

“The overall hackathon experience really broadened my scope of learning alongside applying knowledge and skill sets to produce a positive outcome,” she added.

Kamaka-Mauhili and teammates Brian McMichael (HCC), Karly Requelman (HCC) and Zoe Whitney (UH-Hilo) took First Place and were awarded $2,500 for designing an app that connects community members with skills and materials to rebuild homes that were lost as a result of the lava flow.

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Second Place and $1,500 went to Kevianna Adams (UH-Hilo), Santos Gutierez (HCC), Ryen Helzer (UH-Hilo) and Catherine Kane-Paulo (UH-Hilo) for their app named Coconut Grove.

Third Place and $1,000 went to Luca Checchia Adell (UH-Hilo), Casey Chow (HCC), Kevin Oh (HCC), and Jena Shidaki (UH-Hilo) for their Disaster Defense app. Fourth Place and $300 went to the team of Alan Cincunegui Corres (UH-Hilo), Kapaia‘alaopuna Earle (UH-Hilo), and Garnett Stone Jr. (UH Hilo) for their app called Second Wave.

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