On April 22-24, 25 participants from the College of Southern Maryland (CSM), local high schools, and other colleges gathered at the Velocity Center in Indian Head to participate in the VelocityX: Climate Innovation Hackathon. The event aimed to promote solutions that can help people make informed decisions in the face of climate change.

Hosted by the Velocity Center in partnership with Ensemble, the hackathon’s theme focused on the effects of climate change on the local region. Participants were presented with two challenges: the Data Visualization Challenge and the Marketing Strategy Challenge.

The Data Visualization Challenge required participants to develop tools that demonstrate how sea level rise will impact coastal communities and infrastructure, such as roads and properties. The Marketing Strategy Challenge asked teams to create a comprehensive marketing campaign to increase awareness of government resources and services available to residents and encourage them to take advantage of these resources.

Teams chose one of the challenges and had two days to create a prototype of their solution. The teams presented their projects to a panel of judges that included representatives from CSM, the Maryland Sierra Club, SMECO, and Leadership Southern Maryland.

CSM student Hasan Turay won first place in the Data Visualization Challenge. His project aimed to present flood risk information in a simple, easy-to-understand format. Meanwhile, team Eco Alerts, composed of high school students, won the Marketing Strategy Challenge by developing an app and branding campaign for resource sharing.

“My goal in this project was to hide the massive amounts of data from users and instead provide them with simple, palatable information,” he said.

Ollie Gerland, director of strategy and product for Ensemble, helps CSM student Ari Gaskins strategize her approach to the data visualization challenge at the VelocityX: Climate Innovation Hackathon. Credit: College of Southern Maryland

The winners of each challenge received a cash prize, with first place receiving $3,000, second place receiving $2,000, and third place receiving $1,000. The CSM Foundation provided the prizes.

“It’s an awesome learning experience, any employer would be impressed,” agreed Velocity Center Executive Director Lesley Quattlebaum. “We have many leaders from our community sitting here, you just don’t know where this will lead.”

Participating in the hackathon provided more than just prize money for the students involved. Participants had access to resources and mentors at the Velocity Center, allowing them to practice facing real-world problems in a collaborative and fun setting. According to Ari Gaskins, a CSM computer science student who placed second in the Data Visualization Challenge, the experience provided valuable hands-on experience with new software and the opportunity to practice explaining her coding to clients.

“This was great practice for tackling real world problems and getting job ready,” said Ari Gaskins, a CSM computer science student who took home second place in the data visualization challenge. She said that stepping out of her comfort zone, practicing explaining her coding to clients, and getting hands-on experience with new software were all just as valuable as the prize money.

The judges also highlighted the importance of the hackathon’s theme and the need for innovative solutions to address climate change. Rosa Hance, chair of the Maryland Sierra Club, emphasized the importance of data visualization in showing decision-makers when and where problems are happening. She also noted that creativity and innovation are essential for adapting to the impacts of climate change.

The VelocityX: Climate Innovation Hackathon provided a platform for students to develop innovative solutions to the challenges posed by climate change. With the support of mentors and resources, participants were able to gain valuable experience and practice solving real-world problems. The winning projects also demonstrated the potential for data visualization and marketing strategies to increase awareness and encourage action in response to climate change.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/EditorEditor-in-Chief

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply