Moody Hacks encourages digital innovation, does not require coding experience

Trinady Joslin

On Nov. 3, the first Moody Hackathon will take over the Belo Center for New Media, the lives of over 250 students and numerous volunteers and the world — well, not quite yet.

The Moody Hackathon began as an idea pitched to the Dallas Morning News in 2016 by the School of Journalism’s Innovation team in order to obtain an innovation endowment. After receiving the funds, the team worked on small projects while beginning to plan for the Hackathon.

Two years later, the event is in its final planning stages. The Hackathon will be the first big event to showcase the forward-thinking, technological side of the department, said Robert Quigley, senior lecturer and innovation director.

“I want people to know that the UT (Journalism) school is an innovative leader,” Quigley said. “The Dallas Morning News has funded something pretty great here, and we’re building something that will become our legacy in a lot of ways.”

Like other Hackathons, the event will last all day and focus on collaboration. What sets it apart is its focus on the media, non-competitive nature and availability to people of all skill sets.

“(The Hackathon) is not necessarily super technical,” Quigley said. “So, you could be on a team of students and have no coding skills between all of you and still come out with a really cool product.”

The Hackathon provides students with the opportunity to form teams, brainstorm and attend workshops throughout the day in order to decide on the direction they want to take their project.

“We’re going to have Texas Monthly, Dallas Morning News, Gatehouse Media and IBM all coming in and presenting cool ideas,” Quigley said. “(They’ll) also be roaming mentors who are going to stop by at the student groups and listen to ideas and give good feedback.”

Brandon Chan, a journalism and biology sophomore, said the availability of these mentors and the satisfaction of completing a worthwhile project is what drew him to participate in Moody Hacks.

“(The workshops are) something that anybody who’s interested in journalism should be excited for,” Chan said. “It’s just resources that you normally wouldn’t have access to.”

Participation in the event is open to students of all majors, something that Sabrina LeBoeuf, journalism and radio-television-film sophomore and Moody Hackathon employee, said she hopes will encourage collaboration across campus.

“Our dream is to bring together people from different parts of campus to work on one project together,” LeBoeuf said. “We would love to have the impact be students realizing the need for collaboration among your peers and also just helping engage the community for the upcoming election.”

Nothing created by the students this year will be utilized for the upcoming midterms because it is only a couple of days before the election, Quigley said. However, if the event is a success, future hackathons may be in the works for the innovation team, and they might just change the world.

“It’s the right time to be thinking about that and maybe it’s something that’s used in the next election,” Quigley said. “I want them to realize that we’re some of the most creative digitally minded people on campus, and we’re building the future of media.”