Gender Gap event

Students sit and listen at the Hack the Gender Gap event in the Media Innovation Center at Evansdale Crossing.

The third annual Women’s Hackathon kicked off in the Media Innovation Center on Thursday.

All-women participants from across the country will be represented at the Hackathon, which has an artificial intelligence, or AI, theme.

The event began Thursday night with a symposium on AI’s diversity issue. The Hackathon begins Friday with the participants breaking into teams and brainstorming solutions for problems in society when using AI.

The participants will present their ideas to the judges on Saturday, and the winning team will be announced then.

Hannah Booth, the special events coordinator at the Media Innovation Center, said, "We have a mix of WVU students, and we also have people coming in from SUNY, University of Nevada Reno, University of Texas Austin, and Kansas State, as well as a few other schools."

The winning teams will have their AI concept featured on MediaShift’s website, which shares stories on how media is evolving, and has been in partnership with the Reed College of Media’s Hackathon since 2014.

MediaShift executive director and founder, Mark Glaser, said, "It gives students a chance to create something special over a weekend with smart students from other schools, faculty and great mentors."

"Artificial intelligence is increasingly more important in tech and media, but there is a diversity problem if it’s being built largely by white males," Glaser said.

Glaser hopes that the Hackathon will help solve the problem with diversity in tech and media.

Dana Coester, creative director for the Innovation Center, said that the event was created in response to the 2014 "Gamergate" controversy, when women in the gaming industry were allegedly harassed.

"[Gamergate] helped to surface the conversation about gender inequality in technology industries," Coeter said.

The teams of participants will be assisted by mentors, who are staff and faculty members from WVU, Ohio University, University of Southern California and Kent State University. There will also be mentors from Frenzy, an AI startup.

The judges for the Hackathon are experts in media, technology and entrepreneurship.

"When the teams think through complex problem solving using new technology, they begin their expertise in a new arena, this is especially important for women, or others who are underrepresented in technology industries," Coester said.