Five For Friday: The Coolest Things About This University's Collaboration Hackathon

Developers at Michigan State University are getting their hands on the new Avaya Aura Collaboration Environment platform this weekend, during a one-day hackathon where they’ll be encouraged to build communication-enabled apps. We’re big fans of hackathons as incredible collaboration spaces. I interviewed Nicholas Kwiatkowski, an instructor in the telecoms, information studies and media department at MSU. From him, I discovered 5 reasons why MSU’s hackathon this weekend is particularly interesting.

1. It Will Get People Out Of Their Silos

There are a number of software developers at MSU who spend the majority of their time writing code for their specific department. For example, the Agriculture department last year developed an application that served as a telephone-based frost alarm for local farmers, giving them timely weather warnings, and potentially preventing harm to their crops.

However, there was no collaboration from the outside. Most departments have their own staff, projects, and servers. Hackathons change that dynamic, giving developers from different parts of the campus a place – and a reason – to come together and work on common projects.

2. It Will Help Change Campus Development Culture
Because of this siloed approach to software development, people weren’t thinking outside their departments. Hackathons (like the one this weekend) are a great opportunity for people to work on new and unfamiliar APIs, build new applications, and make new relationships with like-minded developers.

3. People Are Getting A Crack At Telephony
Virtually all hackathons are about developers building a lightweight mobile app or a quick website. Hackathons involving telephony apps are quite rare. In the future, Kwiatkowski would like to see developers use telephony APIs to build simple Interactive Voice Response apps for specific departments–for example, an IVR that helps students fill prescriptions on campus.

4. Staff and Faculty Will Be Leaders In Building Solutions

While students are present and welcome to attend, the majority of attendees will be staff and faculty. They’ll use the space to share ideas, and work on projects that will likely be applied on campus in the near future.

5. Avaya’s Platform is Front and Center
Kwiatkowski said MSU is committed to staying on the forefront of Avaya’s technology. He noted the school is particularly interested in building MSU-specific apps for Avaya Aura Conferencing and integrating real time SMS (texting) into the AACS platform.