6-minute read

Ohio State students are hacking into the job market with OHI/O

HackOHI/O is a 24-hour hackathon that gives Ohio State students the opportunity to develop ideas and connect with future employers.
A student works with electronics while two other students look on.
Nearly 900 students participated in this year’s HackOHI/O (photo: Logan Wallace).

Amazon was looking for ways Alexa can better serve higher education. American Electric Power sought an improved way to display complicated wind turbine data. Honda sought insight into solving mobility problems that plague society. 

Where did these corporations go to find answers? Ohio State students. 

These questions and more were posed by these corporations as part of the university’s HackOHI/O event, a 24-hour hackathon designed to help students bring ideas to life and connect with industry leaders. It’s just one of a number of offerings by the OHI/O program that connects students with industry and prepares them for life after college. 

“Ultimately, our goal is to provide students the opportunity to learn and build with true industry technologies, outside of the classroom in an informal but supportive way,” Program Director Cal King says.  

Nearly 900 students participated in this year’s HackOHI/O, which marked its 10th year. During the hackathon, students could submit their own projects or respond to challenges introduced by the program’s industry sponsors.  

When working to solve industry challenges, King says that student teams aren’t expected to give sponsors all the right answers. “The questions are purposefully open-ended because we want students to use their existing knowledge and skill sets in a creative way outside of formal education to come up with something totally unique. I think that’s what makes these kinds of informal learning experiences really valuable. That’s something that we focus on across the board, experiential learning.” 

The event offers Ohio State students an opportunity to develop their ideas and connect with potential employers (photo: Logan Wallace).

99P Labs is a research and innovation lab that is backed by Honda and Ohio State focusing on research at the intersection of future mobility, energy and data. 99P Labs has been collaborating with OHI/O for years. “Solving real-world problems is one of the most effective ways students learn and develop skills for their respective industries. It is a win-win scenario as students can get practice for their professional careers while helping develop applicable solutions,” says Ryan Lingo, developer advocate for 99P Labs. 

King says that sponsored challenges can help offer industry partners a new perspective. “A lot of times people in the industry have been working on the same data set for months and they can give it to somebody who has a wildly different perspective on that data, and in 15 minutes see something that someone who’s been looking at it for 6 months didn’t initially see.”  

These industry partnerships offer more than just problem-solving opportunities. Sponsors host pre-hackathon events to get students interested, support OHI/O financially, and send recruiters to the hackathons to help students network. “I’ve noticed that the recruiters who come to HackOHI/O are a little more interested in hearing from students because they know these students are the ones that are interested in working in the industry and going above and beyond, given that they’re participating in the hackathon,” student co-event lead Adit Anup says.  

Anup even landed a technology internship with American Electric Power by connecting with a recruiter at HackOHI/O and telling them his story, interests and involvement.  

Industry sponsors say they look for folks who have teamwork, leadership experience and product development experience . . . It is an amazing opportunity to put this on your resume.
Cal King
Program Director, Hack OHI/O

OHI/O also collects resumes from participants to distribute to top-level sponsors. “They pull people from that pool for internships, entry-level positions, and other, maybe co-op, opportunities. It’s a really awesome networking opportunity,” King says.  

Many of the projects created at OHI/O’s events don’t start and end there. Past participants have taken projects they started at Hack or MakeOHI/O and found other opportunities to develop them beyond the initial 24-hour prototype. 

Even if participants don’t walk away with a complete product or idea, the experience of participating in HackOHI/O is invaluable for students looking to go into the tech industry. “Industry sponsors say they look for folks who have teamwork, leadership experience and product development experience on their resumes,” King says.  “If nothing else, you don’t have to walk away from one of our events with a new startup idea or with a new product you want to bring to fruition. It is an amazing opportunity to put this on your resume,” she says. 

Adit Anup, center, discusses his work with fellow students (photo: Logan Wallace).

Students from any major that are interested in leadership and entrepreneurship are welcome and encouraged to get involved with OHI/O. “In our marketing, we really try to push the entrepreneurship part of things, the idea that even if you don’t know technology, you can still come to the event, collaborate with people who know the technology, and build an idea out that way,” Anup says.  

The students involved in OHI/O have made a great impression on industry sponsors. “Ohio State students are intelligent, hungry to learn, curious and humble, a unique combination of values in our community. OHI/O and other student bodies have curated an atmosphere of inclusion, so anyone can feel welcome and participate in an event knowing they will have fun and learn something,” says Lingo.  

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