Since 2010, Evan Korth has been a set piece of the hackathon scene after cofounding hackNY along with Chris Wiggins and Hilary Mason. For Hackcon IV, we have the privilege to have him as a keynote speaker, where hackathon organizers from around the world will hear him speak about his time working with the student hackathon community. We asked him a couple of questions to give you a sneak peek of what you’ll hear from him at the conference!


Evan Korth Talking at hackNY

Evan @ hackNY Spring 2011

So, who are you?

I am a professor of computer science at NYU.  I cofounded hackNY and CSNYC.  I am an investor and mentor to many NYC based technologists and their companies.

What’s your involvement with the student hackathon community?

hackNY held its first student-only hackathon in 2010.  We believe it was the first multi-university college student-only hackathon.

The first hackNY

hackNY Fall 2010

How has the scene and community changed since the first hackNY hackathon?

Wow.  Thanks for taking me back to 2010.  If I didn’t already feel old by attending Hackcon now I do.  

When we held the first hackNY hackathon, we did not know if anyone would show up.  We did not know if people would stay the whole time.  We had to explain to people what a hackathon is.  I had to convince the NYU administration it was ok to have a 24 hour event.  One of our goals was to show that creating things with code could be a fun collaborative experience — we wanted to shatter the image of coding as something you do alone in your parents’ basement.

Fast forward to now… everyone knows what a hackathon is.  Learning to code is part of a national conversation and college students have multiple hackathons each weekend to choose from.  Now we focus on inclusivity and making sure everyone feels safe.  

Hackathons are still an important component of training the next generation of creators.  The latest API’s and development tools will likely never be part of a traditional CS education but a well rounded student coming out of college must know these things and be able to work on nimble teams.

As a teacher, how do you advise students on what they want out of their education with what they want out of their careers?

It is hard to generalize an answer to this question because every student needs to find his or her own path and my advice tends to be specific to the student at hand.  But, I’ll try to give general advice without too many platitudes…

At the end of the day college is as much about what you do outside of class as what you do in class. This has always been true.  

I try to advise my students to gain exposure to a varied set of experiences.  For example, one summer you can work at a startup (ideally in NYC through hackNY’s summer fellowship of course); another at a larger company and if you can afford it spend a summer working on a personal project.  

hackNY Fellows Group Photo

hackNY Fellows Class of 2015

But don’t forget at the end of the day, college years are unique.  It is an opportunity to do things that become harder in later years of life.  Go abroad and do something unrelated to technology if the opportunity presents itself.  Our best technologists have well rounded interests — feed yours.

What are some best practices to get more youth involved in technology?

This is an issue I have focused on during my three year leave from NYU at my second non-profit — CSNYC. Our mission at CSNYC is to get CS education in every school in the NYC public school system.  Students at all levels are using technology all day every day.  But I think they need to understand what is means to build that technology from the youngest age as well.  In elementary school that might mean exposure to logic and using drag and drop tools.  In middle school they can move into using tools like Vidcode and Codesters.  Universal exposure at this age hopefully translates to high school knowing which areas, if any, they want to pursue.

Youth at hackNY

How do you think student hackathon leaders can best utilize their time and contribute to their communities?

The biggest issues for our communities of technologists are still related to diversity and inclusion.  By now student hackathon leaders know about the issues and why they are important.  I encourage all the great student hackathon leaders at Hackcon to think deeply about these issues and spend their time trying to move us in the right direction.

We’re excited to hear what more he has to say at #HackconIV! It’s been 6 years since the first hackNY, and we’re sure that he’ll have a ton of lessons to share with all the organizers there. Reach out to him on Twitter to chat if you just can’t wait until then!

Tickets for #HackconIV are all sold out, but don’t miss your chance to go #HackconEU, the student hackathon organizers’ conference that will be hosted in Eindhoven, Netherlands in September! Early Bird Tickets are coming out soon, so sign up on the waitlist!

All photos courtesy of hackNY.