Blackstone LaunchPad hosts a 24-hour hackathon

Rachel Gill

New products such as Google Glass, fitness bands and light-up clothing are all a part of the increasingly popular trend of wearable technology. Kent State’s Blackstone LaunchPad explored this new industry with the first its ever Fashion/Tech Hackathon.

The Fashion/Tech Hackathon was a 24-hour event open to any college student in which participants had to focus on combining fashion and technology to create new, innovative products within 24 hours.

The hackathon was part of Kent State Blackstone LaunchPad’s annual “Innov8athon” competition running from 5:30 p.m. Friday through Saturday in Rockwell Hall. The competitions are designed to help students create new ideas and businesses.

The first-place prize of $2,000 went to Mitchell Gillespie, a junior physics major at Kent State. He created Miracle Sole, a running-shoe sole that would improve running form through pressure.

Students of all different majors and levels of education joined teams to build real prototypes using fashion and technology.

Students from several Ohio universities attended, including Ohio State University, University of Toledo, Case Western University, Baldwin Wallace University and Bowling Green State University.

The teams not only had to create new products but develop business concepts as well.

“We were hoping having students collaborate on creating exciting new products while also thinking about the business, like how are you going to market this or how is this going to make money,” said Zack Mikrut, marketing and event manager of the Blackstone LaunchPad.

Students worked diligently to develop new ideas and create unique products to pitch their business plans to a small group of northeast Ohio business leaders.

The small group acted as judges and included people from NorTech, JumpStart, FlashStarts, Tiny Circuits, MOVABLE, Kent Displays, Kent State’s Liquid Crystal Institute and representatives from the School of Fashion Design and Merchandising.

The second annual Innov8athon, Fashion/Tech Hackathon drew together dozens of students to create 15 very different presentations.

After the 24 hours had concluded, the teams presented their ideas and business concepts to the judges to compete for $3,500 in various cash rewards.

One of the teams, Brava, developed an app designed to “inspire guys to raise their eyes.”

They embedded a small camera into a blouse of a women’s cleavage that would snap a photo of a man staring into a woman’s cleavage by tracking the eye movement.

“The camera will then interface with your smartphone. The app will allow you to select social media pages to post awkward pictures of these men caught looking at your cleavage,” said Brava team member Chris Jones, a junior marketing major at Kent State.

Brava was also made up of Kent State students Robin Bonatesta, a junior double major in fashion merchandising and computer science, and Paul Dilyard, a junior digital science major.

They wanted to create an app as a deterrent of sexual assault and as a way to shame men who condone objectifying behavior, and empower women.

Brava ran into many inconsistencies tracking eye movement because of its limited time but hopes to expand on their prototype in the future by being able to actually track the corneal reflections.

This app was just one of the many exciting, innovative products created by students during this competition. The various cash rewards granted to the top teams will be put toward expanding their new businesses.

Contact Rachel Gill at [email protected].