Building a billion-dollar idea at the Carroll County Hackathon?

Ashlyn Cooper, 14, concentrates on note taking on her laptop computer while learning programming techniques while creating apps. at the "Hackathon" weekend at Carroll Community College.
Ashlyn Cooper, 14, concentrates on note taking on her laptop computer while learning programming techniques while creating apps. at the "Hackathon" weekend at Carroll Community College. (Phil Grout / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

McDaniel College graduate Dajuan Price had never done any coding or had experience building apps before joining with friends to participate in the inaugural Carroll County Hackathon last year.

“A friend of ours, who was a computer science major, heard about it and wanted to participate,” he said.


But then, that was the idea, according to Jason Stambaugh, vice president of the board of directors for the Westminster nonprofit Mid-Atlantic Gigabit Innovation Collaboratory, or MAGIC, and one of the organizers of the Hackathon.

“We wanted to get students with basic background and experience, or in some cases no background or experience, to teach them how to design, build and pitch an app,” Stambaugh said. “Not over six months or a year, but in just a weekend.”


This year, they’re doing it again: Running from the evening of Friday, Feb. 23 through Sunday Feb. 25, the 2018 Carroll County Hackathon, to be held at Carroll Community College, offers high school- through college-age students a chance to take an app from inspiration to delivery, in a weekend and for free — and there’s still time to register. There’s also tons of free food to be served, according to Stambaugh.

“Maybe the next billion-dollar idea comes out this,” he said. “Last year we had the tagline, ‘learn how to build an app that maybe will change the world — or maybe will just change Carroll County.’”

Last year’s Hackathon certainly changed Price’s world, and that of his teammates. They spent the Hackathon weekend developing BookSwap, an app that lets students buy or sell used textbooks or school supplies. The app would go on to win Price’s team the 2017 Carroll Biz Challenge, $7,500 in cash, and will soon be available for download on Apple and Android devices.

“The plan is to have it ready for finals week this semester, or by the latest, next semester,” Price said.

And BookSwap was just one of 15 app projects that were turned in last year, Stambaugh said, many of which made use of GPS location technology: One team built an app that locates and maps vending machines.

But the goal of the Hackathon is about more than just teaching young people to build a specific app, Stambaugh said. It’s to foster and incubate a local tech culture and community.

“To drum up and create more interested in coding, in tech entrepreneurship and in solving problems with technology,” he said. “To prime the pump for more.”

While Price has graduated and thus is no longer eligible for the Hackathon —“Once you are out of college, it’s no longer for you,” Stambaugh said — the aim of the program is to get 13-year-olds coming back annually until they are no longer eligible, according to Stambaugh.

“I think those that come back and do it year over year will continue to grow and we may see epic projects in the future,” he said.

And for those in the 13-to-22 age range who might be on the fence about participating in this year’s Hackathon, Price suggests they simply take the plunge.

“If a student has an idea but does nothing with [it] and another person has that idea and makes it prosper, that student will regret it,” Price said. “There is nothing to lose in participating in the Hackathon.”

For more information or to register, visit www.carrollcountyhackathon.com.

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