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Creative competitors wanted for annual tech contest
Valley Hackathon, a 24-hour event that has participants of all ages work diligently on a coding and digital design project that must be completed and fully functional by the end of the event when judges award over $5,000 in prize money to winners, will return to the Valley for the third year on Jan. 21, 2017. - photo by Photo Contributed

Technology will take center stage in the Central Valley for the third consecutive year as the Valley Hackathon brings the software community together for a timed programming competition.


Hackathons were formerly isolated to big cities, but according to organizer Phillip Lan, the competitions have made their way to the Valley.


“Initially, a few local techies wanted to foster a stronger sense of community and thought a Hackathon and some software meet ups would be a good place to start,” said Lan.


The small notion has evolved, he said, to support a larger movement which leverages technology for the benefit of the Central Valley. This year’s competition expects to see a turnout of over 100 programmers – a significant increase from the event’s first year total of 22 participants. Lan only expects the competition to continue expanding.


“We anticipate that this event will grow to several hundred competitors, as well as multiple events over the next several years,” he said. “We are already drawing more interest from Bay Area programmers, and have launched additional Hackathon events throughout the year.”


At the Hackathon, programmers will compete on teams of one to four participants to build a software project in just 24 hours that is deemed to be the most complete, viable, aesthetically pleasing and technical by a panel of judges. Last year, competitors created a drone controller, 3D animation software, an agricultural soil sample testing system and a sharing and rating website for legal graffiti artists, along with other projects. The competition will be giving out $5,000 worth of prizes, with the first place team receiving $2,000 in cash and prizes.  The second and third place teams will receive $1,200 and $700 in cash and prizes, respectively.


Though the competition originally began as a way to harness interest in technology within the Valley, it has quickly established itself as one of the leading Hackathons in the region, with entrants coming from as far as the Bay Area and Fresno. Lan hopes that the increased interest in the event will spur economic benefits for the area.


“We are convinced that a thriving local tech community will be a key factor in creating economic opportunities for Valley residents,” said Lan. “Tech jobs tend to pay higher and tech firms bring a whole ecosystem of supporting companies and opportunities.”


All ages are invited to compete in the annual Hackathon, which will take place on Jan. 20 at Redeemer Church in Modesto, 820 H St. Check-in begins at 5 p.m., and the Hackathon competition will begin at 6:30 p.m. and conclude the following day. 


“Though 24 hours is not a ton of time, we have been very impressed by the complexity of the projects,” said Lan. “We’ve seen everything from a program designed to sample soil moisture to software that scanned movie reviews to create viewing suggestions to users based on their current mood, so competitors will want to be sure their project is both inventive and interesting.”


Competitors may register at the door the day of the event, but are encouraged to do so by Dec. 31 in order to guarantee a spot. Those interested can register online at