June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Design in Engineering Education
Hackathon events are severely time constrained events (24-36 hours consecutively) where engineers dive deeply into solving design challenges. Part of the learning experience is to learn as much as you can in a short amount of time. This work explores how participants learn enough to complete a project during the limited amount of time given about something new to be able to “hack” together (design) a feasible solution. This intense but short-duration of time occur naturally in hackathons and magnifies the importance of applying learning strategies and specific types of knowledge to be able to contribute to the event.
Hackathons in this context refer to technological invention sprints that occur over a period of 24-36 hours to program software and hardware to solving a real world design challenge. A majority of participants enter hackathons not knowing the direction of their intended project beforehand, and not knowing what specific additional information they will need to complete their project beyond their own technical abilities. These hackathons are not related to breaking into systems for the sake of exploitation, a popular but outmoded notion associated with “hacking.”
Participants often have to learn something new in a short amount of time, such as a specialized programming language and/or new hardware, and strategies to integrate both into a system. As projects develop throughout the duration of the hackathon, the needs of the project, and the skills needed for the project, can change abruptly. So, in a rather quick and responsive manner, participants then have to change what they were learning. With limited time then, the confines of a hackathon event forces participants to find effective personalized learning methods to better understand, develop, and very quickly apply skills crucial to their project’s development and ultimate success.
For this research, the research team observed engineering and computer science students in action over the course of collegiate hackathon events, with particular attention to checking in with a couple of student teams over the course of the time period. This work observes these trends and is an observational study to understand the learning strategies present. Some of the observed trends include peer learning, adaptive learning, and variations on self-directed learning. We will highlight these with specific examples from our field work. We expect to be able to dive more deeply into this through our continued analysis of hackathon teams recorded as they progress through hackathons, and their process of finding information and using resources is documented.
This work can be used to better engineering education through a more specific understanding of personalized learning strategies, especially with self-directed learning. The nature of hackathon events can help illuminate ways in which engineering and computer science students can be better prepared in more formal learning environments. We hope to provide ways in which we can bridge a gap between personalized education and formal learning.
La Place, C., & Jordan, S. S., & Lande, M., & Weiner, S. (2017, June), Engineering Students Rapidly Learning at Hackathon Events Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/28260
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