Hackathon tackling education reform this week

For Garrett Johnson, the co-founder of in Silicon Valley, running hackathons for education is personal. He grew up in a low-income area of Tampa, and credits the opportunities he had to get a higher education at Florida State and Oxford universities for his success. Now, through his company Lincoln Labs, he and his team put together free hackathons around the nation, such as in San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago, that look for solutions to improve education .

On Friday, Liberty Hackathon: Reforming Education is coming to Venture Hive in downtown Miami.

There, South Florida’s engineering and startup community will combine forces with students, teachers and education advocates to build applications that improve Florida’s education system. Any idea related to secondary or higher education — both domestic and international — is welcome, says Johnson. These could be apps that help teachers improve their skills, teach students to study more productively, make schools safer, or better connect the stakeholders in the educatonal system, for instance.

“Florida is ground zero for education reform. The technology community in Florida and around the country can help to accelerate and amplify the reach of these reforms. We are hosting Liberty Hackathon: Reforming Education in Miami in order to promote disruptive innovation at the important intersection of education and technology,” says Johnson, noting that while college tuition rates have soared, the U.S. still ranks low globally in high school math and science.

Hackathons are technology competitions where engineers and non-technical participants propose ideas, form teams, build functional applications and design distribution models within a fixed time period. Immediately following the end of the working phase of the competition, a panel of judges listens to short pitches delivered by each team and determines winners.

For the free 24-hour hackathon that starts Friday night, Oct. 11, at Venture Hive, judges will include: Peter Kellner of Richmond Global; Xavier Gonzalez of the Technology Foundation of the Americas; Madeline Pumariega, CEO of Take Stock in Children; and Miguel Alonso Jr. of Miami Dade College’s School of Engineering. There will be $5,000 in prizes awarded to the winners. To sign up, go here:

There is also a two-day virtual hackathon beginning Monday night, Oct. 7, open to anyone 18 and older in the U.S. Teams can submit a video of their hack for judging, and there will be $5,000 in prizes given for that contest as well. Sign up for the virtual hackathon here:

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