The CSU Hackathon project was launched during the 201890 session in collaboration with Port Macquarie Hastings Council. The goal was to help and enhance relationships with the local community while providing Master of Information Technology (MIT) students with a chance to showcase and improve their skills in their chosen fields.

The project was very well received by the local community and played an important part in integrating students within the community by liaising directly with local businesses and showcasing their talents.

An unintended result was the development of some paid internship and scholarship opportunities for students beyond the hackathon. In addition, we have developed an excellent working relationship with one business in particular, which has led to research collaborations with senior staff.

What’s important about this learning and teaching story?

By participating in the project, the students:

  • Showcased their skills;
  • Improved and updated their career profiles;
  • Integrated with the local community and helped local businesses with IT related issues;
  • Gained important real-world experience by working in their chosen fields; and
  • Improved their interpersonal, problem solving and team working skills.

What were you trying to achieve?

As the summer session is teaching free for MIT students at the Port Macquarie campus, it is during this time that some of the students decide to change campuses and move to other locations (Sydney) as they feel there are more career opportunities in major cities.

Through this project, we wanted to engage the MIT students with the local community while providing them a chance to showcase and further build their skills within the Port Macquarie Hastings region.

What did it look like?

The project gained much stronger interest than expected, with many local businesses submitting projects of varying levels of scope. After reviewing each project, I matched the students to a project depending upon their skill set and the project requirements. Students were then introduced to the business owners and we defined the projects further, and commenced work.

The work progress was monitored regularly and guidance was provided to the student as required to ensure projects were completed in a timely manner.

There were some projects that were deemed to be out of scope of the Hackathon project due to their complexity and time frame. After have some discussions with those businesses, those projects were turned into paid internship opportunities for the students.

How can I make this happen?

Being a part of a regional university, I personally feel that community projects such as this can play an important role in delivering quality learning experiences for our students, while helping our communities. Although the focus of this project was within the IT/Computing discipline, I think the same model can be easily adapted for other disciplines.

All the regional communities where CSU campuses are located provide unique opportunities for the establishment of such opportunities (e.g. agriculture, aged care, tourism) and I believe that the projects can be tailored according to the requirements of each location and the student cohorts.

While initiating the project, I was a little unsure of how it would be received and whether or not it would be successful. However, I received a very positive response in all my interactions with local businesses within the Port Macquarie Hastings region. Industries who have a similar footprint in regional NSW are also keen to support such an initiative as they actively look for graduates who are keen to work in regional locations.