What the hack?

Discovery Place Science


On Friday, March 24, more than 300 hackers will take over Discovery Place Science after hours to beat the clock in an overnight Hackathon.

Don’t worry, Discovery Place breaking into your computers or stealing your data. Though hacking often has a negative connotation in today’s world, this big data will be used for good.

The Museum has partnered with Charlotte software startup Tresata to host the fifth annual HACKATHONclt.

This all-night event presents a digital challenge to the participating hackers, who will then analyze millions of data records to come up with a solution to the problem. These hackers will need to brainstorm possible solutions, and then hack them into reality by coding and developing digital systems, software or marketing plans to solve the proposed problem.

So what does it mean to “hack” data? Millions of data records, called big data, will be provided by the benefiting charity, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte. Hackers will then use mathematical formulas to look for patterns of information in the data that could help determine a solution to the presented problem.

In past years, hackers have been presented with problems like assisting Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina with organizing an influx of donations after their expansion and making distribution of food more efficient and effective. In 2015, hackers helped Harris Teeter find a more attractive and creative way to deliver groceries to customers outside of traditional means, using over 140 million data records.

This year’s data problem will be revealed on the night of the event.

After nearly 12 hours of caffeine and coding, on the morning of Saturday, March 25, the horn will sound and teams will have to get ready to present their proposals for judging. Set up like a science fair, teams and individuals will pitch their ideas during the preliminary judging round. By the time to the doors of Discovery Place Science open to the public at 9:00 a.m., only a few teams will be selected to move on to the final round.

Museum guests will be invited to watch the final presentations and to participate in hackathon-inspired activities throughout the day. More than $20,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded, one of the largest hackathon jackpots in the country.

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