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Hurricane Relief Focus of Engineering Diversity & Women’s Programs Hack-A-Thon

Friday, October 13, 2017

LAWRENCE — Developing ideas and inventions to assist the recently hurricane-ravaged areas of Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico in their recovery will be the focus of an overnight event later this month for students in the University of Kansas School of Engineering’s Diversity & Women’s programs.

The “IHAWKe-a-thon” is named after the newly renamed IHAWKe program that includes the American Indian Science & Engineering Society, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the National Society of Black Engineers and the Society of Women Engineers. The event starts at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20, in the LEEP2 building and ends at noon the next day.

“The purpose is to provide IHAWKe students an opportunity to change the world by competing in interdisciplinary teams in an all-night creative engineering design competition,” said Andrew Williams, associate dean for diversity, equity & inclusion in the School of Engineering.

Teams will be challenged to create a product that can be used by hurricane survivors to “preserve, protect, house, connect or restore human lives” in the days before and after a Category 5 hurricane. The contest urges the teams to focus on issues ranging from homelessness to food and power shortages to other environmental and social impacts from such a storm.

Teams have a $50 budget for materials; they’ll be expected to display the prototype and give a three- to five-minute presentation on their proposal at the competition’s end.

A panel of judges from faculty, the community and industry groups will judge the winners. Williams said IHAWKe is still seeking sponsorship to provide prizes for the contest winners, though “part of the prize is knowing we may potentially help people.”

Williams also hopes to raise $5,000 through the LaunchKU crowdfunding effort to help the winning team take a fact-finding trip in spring 2018 to a hurricane-damaged area to further develop its prototype.

“This trip would be for a team of students to test the prototype, get additional input from those impacted and do community service,” Williams said. “The students are especially interested in those that are homeless as a result (of the storms) and what could be done to provide sustainable, affordable and safe housing.”

The competition is part of Williams’ efforts to expand IHAWKe’s scope with a renewed emphasis on collaboration between the program’s constituent groups, mentoring and programming that helps students develop their engineering skills.

The competition is sponsored by Black & Veatch and AT&T, which is providing 20 backpacks for student winners.

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