Group hopes to change culture with Innovation Festival
Lakeside grad Eric Parker left Augusta in 2000 to try his hand at being an architect in Silicon Valley. There, he was exposed to a well-documented culture of innovation, and when he decided he wanted to move back home, he longed to see that same culture take root in his hometown.
Together with Dr. Anthony Robinson, he cofounded Hack Augusta, a group he hoped would unite other groups in town that were doing similarly progressive things, but seemed unaware of each other.
To increase their understanding of technological entrepreneurship, Parker and Robinson even went to Silicon Valley to meet with investors, start ups and designers and ask them what it takes to create an environment as open and nurturing as the one in Silicon Valley.
“When we came back, we decided to keep the name Hack Augusta and grow it into an organization that would host Hackathons and festivals like what we had gone to in order to get people together to try to innovate,” Parker says.
A Hackathon is essentially a marathon work session where people get together to create different products for businesses, nonprofits or causes. According to Parker, there are several formats for Hackathons. They can last from 12 to 54 hours, but the basic idea behind them is for everybody to simply collaborate for a set period of time. In the end, participants are judged and their work celebrated.
“It’s kind of just a long party devoted toward actually producing something,” Parker says.
In June, Hack Augusta hosted its first Hackathon at Enterprise Mill, where nearly 35 developers spent 24 hours working on singlesemail.com, a web-based company.
This weekend, the group will host the Innovation Festival, an event geared toward anyone interested in technology, design or entrepreneurship.
“What we’re doing for the Innovation Festival is a Hack for Education,” Parker says. “This one is specifically geared toward how do we address the needs of education in the Augusta area as far as becoming more technologically aware and bringing focus to inner-city neighborhoods where they might not have the same access to education that we have everywhere else in the city.”
And for those areas that do have access to education, Parker says the event can introduce students and parents to other free resources, potentially even creating some new ones.
The Hackathon starts at 6 p.m. on Friday, when participants will talk about their ideas and what they think is needed. Then, they’ll split up into different teams, with each team working on their project until noon on Saturday, when they’ll all pitch their projects to the people who have come to attend the Innovation Festival.
The festival will be held at the amphitheater at Augusta State University.
“We obviously put it on campus for a reason,” Parker says. “We definitely want to engage the university audience, but we’ve also done a tremendous amount of work reaching out to various high schools. We think there’s a lot of opportunity for high school students in the area to come out and see what opportunities exist in the area.”
Convincing people to think of Augusta as a location where they can have a career centered around innovation is an important element in keeping talented students from leaving the area, Parker says.
Both the Hackathon and the Innovation Festival are free.
One of the project’s first supporters was Mayor Deke Copenhaver, who shares their belief that collaborative innovation leads to economic success.
“He introduced me to lots of very like-minded, forward-thinking people in this city,” Parker says. “He played an integral role in getting everything moving.”
One of the initial hurdles came with the name itself.
“We wanted to show people in the area that a Hackathon could be something that wasn’t about breaking into computers and get them to realize that it could be a way to stimulate economic growth and create jobs within the city,” Parker says.
Now that the concept is gradually becoming understood, Parker feels the events will help nudge Augusta toward the city they hope it can become.
“If you consider yourself a hacker or a maker or an entrepreneur or a designer, it’s just a place where creative people can come together and have a celebration for a day that we’re actually doing cool stuff in Augusta,” Parker says. “Hacking is about creative problem solving and Hack Augusta is about how to create positive economic change for the city of Augusta.”You Might Also Like:
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