History made in the Windsor-Essex Innovation Ecosystem with WinHacks

Thursday, April 2, 2020



This past weekend, history was made in the Windsor-Essex innovation ecosystem with WinHacks.
WinHacks, the University of Windsor’s first-ever hackathon, made the decision to go digital on about one week’s notice. WinHacks, inspired tech talent locally to get involved in our technology community, ultimately contributing to unlocking the potential of our future programmers, hackers, and designers so that we all make a difference.
Approximately 400 students joined us on this three-day event, where all participants were given 36 hours to come up with their greatest hack. The theme for this hackathon was Mobility. Students were free to interpret the theme however they wanted as it could relate to mobility in healthcare, fin-tech, automation, supply chain logistics and more! Participants were given the opportunity to come up with their greatest creation that will be later presented and judged by a panel of qualified adjudicators and win top tech and cash prizes!
Educational events such as workshops to help hone and adopt new skills in the field of computer science were also on the agenda in addition to the opportunity to interact with recruiters and technical representatives of the region and the nation’s top tech companies. Crucially, WinHacks was also declared a Major League Hacking 2020 Member Event, the first ever at the University of Windsor. MLH is a global organization that legitimizes hackathons around the world, including Waterloo’s Hack the North, Canada’s largest hackathon, giving WinHacks an important distinction in its inaugural year.
Moreover, pivoting to the times, with the help of WEtech Alliance and the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation, we even launched a COVID-19 challenge to put students to work to #FlattenTheCurve. As I (Noah Campbell) said to CBC Windsor’s Chris Ensing, the students participating in WinHacks are not the students lounging around on beaches in Florida, these are the students who will deal with the economic fallout of COVID-19 as they prepare to enter the workforce. They were asked to create solutions and they delivered. 
From a live recruiter Q&A with BlackBerry’s entire Campus Talent Acquisition team, to a Google Cloud Hero Competition, informative workshops, and a cyber-security capture the flag challenge, students were well equipped with the skills they needed to succeed. Many of these challenges helped to bridge the gaps for students who may not receive these types of experiential learning opportunities everyday in the classroom. As the need for a more diverse and robust tech talent pipeline is required, empowering students with key skills in a memorable method is critical. Students then had the opportunity to put these newfound skills to the test in their very own submissions that ranged from 18 different challenges and categories.
There were over 400 active participants (individuals who worked to submit projects rather than only partake in workshops and events) and 77 submissions for solutions! It's important to note that per MLH, a typical in-person hackathon sees about 70 submissions with 500 participants, showcasing the flexibility and record-setting contributions to WinHacks. 
Not to be understated, by partnering with Build a Dream and BB Branded to provide swag to attendees and EZY Mode Gaming to offer live e-sports tournaments/programming throughout WinHacks, WinHacks was able to support local organizations right here at home at a time when it's needed most. As we continue to transform Windsor into an automobility and cyber-security hub of innovation excellence, events like WinHacks build the groundwork to ensuring students, the future of the region, are well supported and equipped to innovate and drive development both of talent, entrepreneurship, and economic development in Windsor-Essex.
To learn more about the impact we have together, please read this exciting recap written in partnership with WEtech Alliance:  https://www.wetech-alliance.com/2020/04/01/going-the-social-distance-the-making-of-a-historic-virtual-hackathon/