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Northeastern, US Navy team up for ‘idea hackathon’

161015-N-NT265-1069 WATERS SURROUNDING THE KOREAN PENINSULA (Oct. 15, 2016) The forward-deployed Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85) participates in a photo exercise with Republic of Korea Navy ships during Invincible Spirit 2016. Invincible Spirit is a bilateral exercise conducted with the Republic of Korea Navy in the waters near the Korean Peninsula consisting of routine counter strike group operations in support of maritime counter-special operating forces and integrated maritime operations. McCampbell is on patrol with Carrier Strike Group Five (CSG 5) supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Christian Senyk/Released)

Calling all coders, designers, and storytellers: The U.S. Navy wants you to build an innovative digital experience, a bold social media campaign, or a live interactive event that will bring to life one of the many stories from the Navy’s 241-year history.

You will have less than 48 hours to complete your project.

Sponsored by Northeastern’s School of Journalism, the idea hackathon will run from 9 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 6 in 102 West Village G. The deadline to sign up to participate is Thursday, and the first 100 people to register will receive a free T-shirt and bag.

Tapping into ‘the creative energy of the students and the campus’

In order to find new ways to communicate the Navy experience to millennials and members of Generation Z, participants will work closely with web developers from Upstatement; augmented reality experts from Green Door Labs; and advertising industry professionals from Y&R, the Navy’s ad agency.

They will plumb the depths of historical archives and rare datasets, unpack bold social media strategies, and experiment with 360-degree video, harnessing the power of their newfound knowledge to dive deep into the lives of sailors while tacking big themes like history, race, and terrorism.

“The hackathon will take the usual idea of a co-op and turn it inside out,” said Jonathan Kaufman, director of the School of Journalism. “Instead of sending students to the Navy, the Navy will come to Northeastern to tap into the creative energy of the students and the campus.”

Turning to the experts

Y&R turned to Northeastern to host the hackathon for its expertise in digital storytelling and data analytics, which is anchored by the Media Innovation and Information Design and Visualization programs in the College of Arts, Media and Design. “By marrying the traditional values of journalism with the new technology of data analytics,” said Kaufmann, “we are able to create a powerful new medium of data storytelling.”

The hackathon is the latest example of Northeastern’s longstanding tradition of partnering with the military on initiatives aimed at supporting student veterans and interdisciplinary research. Last fall, for example, North­eastern signed a three-year, $20 million coop­er­a­tive agree­ment with the U.S. Army Research Lab­o­ra­tory to con­duct crit­ical defense research. Earlier in 2015, Northeastern signed a first-​​of-​​its-​​kind agree­ment with the National Guard, enabling guardsmen to earn their Master of Arts degree in home­land secu­rity. And just last month, the university opened a Veterans of Foreign War post, the first to be opened in Massachusetts since 2009 and only the second in the nation to be run by stu­dent vet­erans on a col­lege campus.

“By marrying the traditional values of journalism with the new technology of data analytics, we are able to create a powerful new medium of data storytelling.”
—Jonathan Kaufman, director of the School of Journalism

How it works

Hackathon participants will spend the first part of Saturday pitching ideas, forming teams, and listening to a trio of lightning talks by a digital guru, a social media expert, and a user experience designer from Y&R. They will spend the second part of the day hacking, cultivating experimental, digital, and social media ideas that cut to the heart of what it means to be in the Navy.

At the end of the weekend, each team will deliver a 10-minute pitch to a panel of judges from Northeastern and Y&R. Projects will be judged on their creativity, their ability to resonate with the target audience, and their overall quality.

Awards will be presented to the first-, second-, and third-place teams. The first-place winner will receive $1,000, a three-month paid fellowship at Y&R, and a VIP Navy experience during Fleet Week. The second-place winner will receive is $750 and five Bluetooth speakers. The third-place winner will receive $500.

“Who better than millennials to share their insights on how the Navy is perceived with younger generations and come up with new and breakthrough ways to reach recruits?” said Ken Dowling, the global client leader for Y&R’s Navy Partnership. “We’re really looking forward to having the students go through the idea hack and tell us how they want to be spoken to. Everything right now is a two-way conversation, so incorporating that generation into the development of insights and messaging makes a lot of sense.”