USC and UCLA may be long standing crosstown rivals, but COVID-19 is making them teammates. The two universities joined together on April 6 for Hack for Hope, a two-week online hackathon, to help communities solve problems created by the pandemic.
Hack for Hope gathered teams of students, faculty and alumni from the USC Marshall School of Business, USC Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and the UCLA Anderson School of Management.
“We just thought it would be exciting and fun to bring all of our communities together, and show them the best of Los Angeles together," said Dr. Elissa Grossman, director of Marshall's Lloyd Greif Center who developed the hackathon idea. "We're not USC and UCLA. We're not Trojans or Bruins, we’re Brojans. Today we are Brojans.”
Working remotely, participants are encouraged to create projects that fit in one of the two categories.The first section is to create a product to help solve current problems the general community is facing during the pandemic, and the second one requires participants to look ahead to create products that can aid a “post-COVID-19 world.”
Hack for Hope is offering more than $26,000 in prize money to support prototype completion, proof-of-concept work or community outreach related to COVID-19. Grossman said that the prize money was set up to help “those on the front lines, who are negatively affected by the coronavirus, who are serving as our heroes, those who are negatively affected and need help, particularly in both of our universities.”
“As a lifetime entrepreneurship educator working with lifetime entrepreneurship educators, I think we all felt a sense that we teach about dynamism and uncertainty, we teach about solving problems,” Grossman said. “Couldn't we build something that allows our students to solve problems in our larger USC community?”
When Grossman came up with the idea of having a hackathon, she thought it was “crazy” because her team never ran an online hackathon before. But she and her team eventually decided to implement the idea because it could help bring innovative solutions to the table.
“We feel that even if one project is great and can make a positive dent in the universe, it's worth it,” she said.
Jijie Fan, a USC sophomore majoring in business administration, is a participant in Hack for Hope.
“When I heard the Marshall Greif Center was partnering up with UCLA to do a 2-week online hackathon to solve COVID-19 problems not only in the healthcare industry, but in basically every way that it has impacted our life– from social, to how we continue education– I wanted to get involved,” Fan said.
Fan is competing in the “hack for now” track. She is trying to develop a prototype by the end of two weeks that can be tested in the real world immediately.
“We haven’t figured out what we’re making yet, but we are extremely interested in building software that can help lower-income communities,” Fan said.