February 8, 2019

Winning App Inspired by UN HeForShe Connects Women in Computer Science

An app created by Georgetown students to connect women in university computer science programs took first prize in the gender equality track at this year’s 2019 Hoya Hacks competition.

From Left to Right: Elly Meng (C'10), Kathryn Li (C'19), Narae Lee (C'20), and John Li (National University of Taiwan)
From Left to Right: Elly Meng (C'10), Kathryn Li (C'19), Narae Lee (C'20), and John Li (National University of Taiwan)

Hoya Hacks is an annual 36-hour “hackathon” during which students from Georgetown and other universities compete to use technology to advance solutions to national and global challenges.

The gender equality track is part of Georgetown’s commitments to HeForShe, a UN movement to engage men – and people of all genders – and unite them in the quest for gender equality.

Technology and Service

This year’s hackathon focused on hacking for social impact. In addition to gender equality, students worked to create innovative products in fields such as digital forensics, equity and access, cybersecurity, and social innovation.

“Using this theme as a base for Hoya Hacks allows our students to think about formulating technology in the service of others, which is truly an idea in tech we want more of,” says Joshua Meredith, assistant dean for analytics, technology, and security programs at the School of Continuing Studies.

T-shirts and small prizes from Hoya Hacks 2019.
T-shirts and small prizes from Hoya Hacks 2019.

Connecting Women

Students participating in the gender track were challenged to think about how HeForShe supporters can work with women to create meaningful change in their communities. 

The winning team developed a social matching app that pairs women in computer science departments who have similar personal and professional interests. The Georgetown students who created the app hope to help women connect across age groups and within large lectures.

“Part of the app that we didn’t get to implement but which is very important is an alumni tab,” said Elly Meng (C’19). “Alumni who graduated would add the company they work for and also the courses they took at Georgetown to get to where they are.”

The other students on the winning team were Kathryn Li (C’19), Narae Lee (C’20), and John Li (National University of Taiwan).

HeForShe Ideathons

Georgetown President John J. DeGioia is one of just 10 HeForShe University IMPACT Champions worldwide – and one of only two in the United States. In addition to their institutional commitments to gender equality, champions are asked to hold an annual Ideathon with their campus community.

The university has integrated the Ideathon into Hoya Hacks through the gender track to actively incorporate technology in the solutions the Ideathons generate. For the past three years, the HeForShe Ideathons have focused on reducing gender-based violence.

“In holding Ideathons, HeForShe University IMPACT Champions are engaging their whole campus – students, staff, and faculty – to generate solutions addressing critical issues,” said Elizabeth Nyamayaro, senior advisor to Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women and global head of HeForShe. “These solutions can then be scaled and leveraged by institutions all over the world.”

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