Cracking the Code

A hackathon is traditionally an event in which computer programmers, graphic designers and project managers collaborate on software projects that last anywhere from a day to a week. Hackathons now extend beyond solving software issues and are used by institutions to solve social, environmental, and technical issues.

States could capitalize on a strong innovation ecosystem—or research and business start-up environment—by instituting an annual advanced energy competition and Hackathon to ignite the in-state markets for advanced energy technology.

Governments, businesses, and institutions have used hackathons and competitions to creatively engage citizens to stimulate the economy, create new products, and solve problems in a variety of fields. For example, the Entrepreneur Challenge at UC San Diego offers, a $100,000 prize to encourage innovation in the biomedical field. Participants in GE Appliances’s 33-hour Mega Hackathon invent the next generation of appliances in a state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing facility. In DOE’s annual Cleantech University Prize Collegiate Competition, student teams compete for prize money, while receiving businesses and commercialization training from major research universities. In August 2014, Maryland led its first hackathon, DataBay Reclaim the Bay Innovation Challenge. About 80 teams competed to develop and pitch innovative, data-driven solutions to solve the Chesapeake Bay’s chicken litter pollution. States could take best practices from existing successful competitions and hackathons to develop their own.