HBU Hackathon Boot Camp Gives High School Students Glimpse of Entrepreneurial Possibilities

Thinking entrepreneurially isn’t just for business majors; it’s applicable for every student and all disciplines, says Michael Player, administrative director for Houston Baptist University’s McNair Center for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise.

“Entrepreneurship is a catalyst. People who are in athletics, fine arts, medical fields and more can all benefit,” he said. “An entrepreneur thinks like an owner, and there’s proof that those individuals rise faster in the ranks of any organization.”

Player organized HBU’s inaugural Hackathon Boot Camp from July 17-21. The camp was a five-day journey through real-world commercial concepts, with an emphasis on leadership and teamwork. Participating high school students studied what it takes to identify an area of need, create a proposal and then utilize business and technological resources to meet it.

Students commenced the week by working in groups to conceptualize their projects of choice. They explored practical issues that require ethical solutions involving creativity, collaboration and time management. Next, they presented their ideas for solutions before a panel of judges.

Expert mentor Maia Donohue, senior program manager of 3 Day Startup, has facilitated similar programs in universities across six continents. He said students were eager to create a product or service.

“These high school students are getting a high-level program,” he said. “Concepts like talking to customers and resolving problems are applicable in a lot of fields.”

With help from event partners Houston Federal Credit Union and the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Exchange Club, students had access to drones, virtual and augmented reality, 3-D printers, and enhanced web development resources.

Commercial innovator, Linkedall, presented a DJI drones demonstration and offered business ideas. Fuel.Tech demonstrated experiential technology with wearable devices, and showcased Microsoft’s latest Surface Pro workstation. Students were exposed to film crew training through HBU’s Cinema and New Media Arts Program, and utilized three-dimensional printing in the Department of Visual Arts Print-Maker Lab.  Finally, students capped off the week with a behind-the-scenes NASA tour at the Johnson Space Center.

This year’s student groups came up with products that answered dilemmas ranging from designing usable containers to keeping intoxicated people from driving.

Senior Miles Modad said, “I’ve had a couple of ideas but I didn’t know to progress them. This has given me a better idea of the brainstorming process and what to do and not do.”

Mentor Michelle Harden said students were enthusiastic about bringing fresh ideas to life.

“The students get to be in their elements exploring their passions, and at the same time push beyond their own limits and overcome fears,” she said.

Andrea Cubillos, a senior, said the experience would help with her goal of someday utilizing a marketing degree.

“Before this week, I didn’t know what entrepreneurship was and if it was for me,” she said. “This week has given me experience, and I can grow from there.”

Player said the McNair Center namesakes, Houston entrepreneurs Robert C. “Bob” and Janice McNair, established the Center to inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs educated in the fundamentals of the free enterprise system and how that forms the basis of prosperity in our country.

“At HBU, we believe that all success comes from God,” Player said. “We’re here to put people to work through free enterprise and to give back.”

Dr. Cynthia Simpson, HBU provost and vice president for academic affairs, said, “This camp and its activities equip high school students for a rapidly changing marketplace. We are grateful for the support of The McNair Foundation in preparing Texas’ next generation of entrepreneurs.”