Maker. Creator. Entrepreneur. Boss. West Virginia University’s Reed College of Media wants to empower young women to see themselves in these roles and to help them become leaders in the space where media and technology intersect.

To do that, the College of Media is partnering with MediaShift to co-host “Hack the Gender Gap: Becoming Makers — A Women’s IoT Makeathon,” which brings together college-age women from around the country to envision their role and influence in the emerging “smart-world” market.

The three-day event kicks off on Friday, April 1, and will take place at the College’s Media Innovation Center. It will focus on the new but accelerating market in the Internet of Things and its potential impact on journalism and media, including sensor journalism, reporting with networked smart objects, storytelling with beacons and more.

“The full potential of Internet of Things is yet to be realized. For example, only a handful of people control their thermostat remotely from home, but in the next three years that number will grow,” said Dana Coester, creative director for the College’s Media Innovation Center. “IoT has been dubbed the next Industrial Revolution, and we have designed this Hack the Gender Gap series to ensure that young women of media will be leading the way.”

Throughout the weekend, participants will work in teams on a challenge to problem solve, invent and craft solutions in IoT that make sense for journalism and media enterprises. Students will work with mentors who are prominent female leaders from such companies as NPR, Thomson Reuters, Gannett and the Wall Street Journal. The event will emphasize collaboration, team-building and entrepreneurship.

Jillian Clemente, a sophomore journalism and wildlife and fisheries resources student at WVU, has been working with sensors at the College of Media for the past year. She is looking forward to sharing her knowledge with students from across campus and across the country.

“From deploying DIY open-source sensors into the Monongahela River to tinkering with arduino boards, I’ve learned a lot about the IoT this year in my journalism classes,” said Clemente. “I think the Hack the Gender Gap challenge will be a great opportunity to share that knowledge and work with other people on a project that could potentially change the world.”

The makeathon is the culmination of a coast-to-coast hackathon series exploring the state of the persistent gender gap in the world of technology. Previous hackathons have convened college students from across the country to help launch women creators in emerging technology — from wearables in 2014 to virtual reality in 2015.

The event will feature a network of on-site speakers who will inform, engage and inspire the students throughout the challenge. Speakers include:

Umbreen Bhatti is a lawyer, strategist and design coach who will speak on the importance of human-centered design.
Christine Sunu is the GE fellow in Buzzfeed’s Open Lab for Journalism, technology and the arts who will discuss the IoT market landscape.
Tiffany Shackelford is the executive director of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia who will present on marketing, business plans and seeking funding.
Gina Dahlia is a teaching associate professor and the journalism chair at the WVU Reed College of Media who will advise students on how to present their ideas and pitches.

On Sunday morning, April 3, the teams will present their ideas to a panel of judges from media and technology industries. The winning team will get a platform for their IoT concept through a series of articles on the MediaShift website.

In addition to drawing students from across disciplines at WVU, the makeathon has attracted participants from Northwestern University, the University of Missouri, Penn State, Morgan State and several other schools.

A limited number of spots are still open for the makeathon. You can buy tickets online. To follow the event from afar, follow the hashtags #gendergap and #makeathon.

The makeathon is sponsored by Mozilla OpenNews, which connects a global network of developers, journalists, makers and hackers to collaborate on innovative code and new ideas. They believe a community of peers working, learning and solving problems together can create the tools journalism needs to thrive on the open Web.

The College of Media’s Ogden Newspapers Seminar Series is also a sponsor. Ogden Newspapers, Inc., is a diversified media corporation that publishes 40 daily newspapers, several magazines, weekly newspapers and shoppers located in 14 states from Florida to upstate New York and as far west as Maui, Hawaii. The company sponsors the seminar series to bring high-profile industry leaders to the WVU campus.

The WVU chapter of the National Association of Women MBAs has sponsored the Friday night refreshments. NAWMBA is dedicated to propelling women MBA students and professionals into leadership positions in business. The WVU chapter is committed to educating undergraduate women of the benefit of earning an MBA degree in order to achieve equality in management positions across all industries.

Maker kits for our student teams have been donated by Particle, a prototype-to-production platform for developing an Internet of Things product.

Why “Hack the Gender Gap?”

Through the Hack the Gender Gap series, we are highlighting the opportunities for leadership and influence in technology and media industries through media professions. Technology is a force of disruption and influence across almost every industry, and women are underrepresented in technology companies. Emerging technology is the continued focus for this series as we highlight our Media Innovation Center’s “early adoption” philosophy as a strategy for influence and agency for women in next-generation markets.

Our message to women is that early makers and developers have the opportunity to shape IoT—and journalism’s—future.



CONTACT: Christa Currey, Communications Manager, Reed College of Media, West Virginia University

Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.