Upcoming AT&T hackathon to offer $100,000 in prizes for 5G projects

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A 48-hour hackathon at Butler University next month will offer participants more than $100,000 in prizes for projects focused on sports-related applications for 5G technology.

The free event takes place from 5 p.m. Oct. 22 to 8 p.m. Oct. 24 at Butler’s health and recreation complex, 530 W. 49th St. A parallel 24-hour competition for high-school students, which offers a total of $18,000 in prize money, will take place at Butler during the first part of the weekend.

Butler’s partners in the effort include AT&T, the Indiana Sports Corp. and Nextech, a not-for-profit organization that promotes computer science education for students in grades K-12.

This is the fifth year AT&T has organized a local hackathon, which brings people together for an intense period of collaboration on a technology project. The last event took place in 2019, because the pandemic meant there was no hackathon last year.

“Every year, we try to highlight different technology and pick a different theme,” said Bill Soards, president of AT&T Indiana. Previous hackathons have focused on topics such as the opioid epidemic, public safety and the Indiana economy.

This year, participants will work to create an app, website, internet-of-things concept or other solution that applies 5G wireless technology to the world of sports. The hackathon will focus on a particular type of 5G technology, called millimeter wave 5G, which is designed for use in densely populated locations such as convention centers, sports venues, airports and similar settings.

AT&T has already deployed millimeter wave 5G networks, which the company has branded as 5G Plus, in select venues around the U.S., including Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis. For next month’s hackathon, AT&T will set up a temporary 5G Plus network at Butler.

Hackathon participants will choose from one of three challenges: fan engagement, venue safety and security, and wearables or internet-of-things devices. Participants will then have all weekend to work on their projects, with winners announced at the end of the weekend.

The event is open to people of all skills and abilities, including both students and working professionals. Free meals and snacks will be served during the weekend to keep teams fueled up, and participants are welcome to stay on-site all weekend, Soards said. Typically, the most serious teams have at least one member working on-site during the entire event, and team members sometimes bring pillows so they can catch a nap without leaving the venue.

The hackathon also includes optional workshops, along with speakers from the worlds of both sports and technology. The speakers’ lineup has not yet been announced.

A panel of judges will select one grand-prize winner, whose team will receive $25,000 plus one-year memberships to both the Indiana IoT Lab in Fishers, an internet-of-things innovation space, and the Indiana 5G Zone, a 5G demonstration lab in downtown Indianapolis.

The contest will also award $10,000 prizes to winners of each of the three challenge categories, along with other prizes still to be announced.

“All totaled up, we’re giving away more than $100,000 in prizes for the weekend,” Soards said.

In addition to the prize money, participants also can gain other benefits from the experience, Soards said. Some teams from previous years have remained together to continue working on their ideas, while others have made valuable connections or even landed jobs because of their participation in a hackathon.

Venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, professors and representatives from sports teams are all expected at this year’s event, Soards said. “It’s a way to showcase not just your project or idea, but also yourself, your talents and your skills.”

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