ESPN, coding, and women aren’t three things you’d expect to see in connection to each other, unless, perhaps, it was a statement about how the cultures of the first two aren’t generally known for involving a lot of the latter, at least in participatory roles. And then there’s the notorious rivalry on screen and stage of “Jocks vs. Geeks.”
But this weekend two hundred people, most of them women, came together at Stanford University for espnW’s first Hack Day, a competition to see who could code the best mobile app for sports fans, regardless of their gender.
One group of five women fleshed out an idea for a calendaring app that would help sports teams keep track of their games and events, and engage with fans via social media. Another discussed an app that would alert you to a close game so you can tune in for the final gripping minutes. Still another team went to work on “Accidental Fanatic,” an app designed to help even the most casual fan make intelligent sports-related small talk while staying abreast of the latest sports news and gossip.
The experience level in the room ranged from CompSci students to professionals, but all had access to ESPN’s API, as well as those of the event’s partners, which included Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. The winning app, iSports, was developed by two engineering students Divya Natesan and Pooja Gada. It recognizes the player faces in videos from YouTube and ESPN’s database, and connects them with relevant information. I don’t want to get all corny on you guys, but it seems like Natesan and Gada weren’t the only winners.
Terry Rodriguez-Hong is a visual designer and former college volleyball player, and was excited to be among other women who shared her interests for two whole days: “When I went to college, I was an athlete and an art and design student. That was a rarity,” she said. “People thought I was a jock, maybe a sports medicine major. Back then in the early ’90s there was a big disconnect.” Said grad student Kathryn Thomas, “It’s empowering to see a bunch of women collectively working on the same thing. Our [IT] classes really are dominated by guys. It’s a good feeling to be around people that are like you and have shared interests.”
Vice president of espnW, Laura Gentile, says that her company hopes to make Hack Day a regular thing, to hasten the day when nobody has to talk anymore about the gender gap in sports, programming, or big business.