Students, faculty, staff and industry experts explored the transformative power of data with the university's first Data X Symposium and LehighHacks, a 24-hour, student-driven hackathon, held concurrently on Thursday, March 31 and Friday, April 1.
Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics and president of operations and strategy of NBC Sports Group, delivered the symposium's keynote address. Zenkel highlighted the upcoming Rio Games, described the network's growing approach to digital media and discussed developing relationships with social media networks.
In a question-and- answer session, Lehigh Trustee Peter Diamond, executive vice president for programming at NBC Olympics, joined Zenkel and discussed how he and his colleagues use minute-to-minute Nielsen data to make programing changes throughout the Games.
Moving forward, Zenkel said, partnerships include a commitment from social media platforms to provide NBC Olympics with data as well.
"Obviously the deeper, the more granular that data is, the better off we are," Zenkel explained. "... We're hoping for some actual real-time feedback from the social platforms, giving us a sense of how [the] audience is responding to our coverage."
Three panel sessions followed the keynote, in which industry experts and Lehigh faculty working in digital media, computing and consumer analytics discussed related issues.
"It's great to bring this kind of conversation to campus because it sparks new collaborations," said Daniel Lopresti, professor of computer science and engineering and director of Data X.
LehighHacks brought nearly 150 students to Bay C2 on the Mountaintop Campus. Participants worked in teams to use technology to create unique solutions to problems in the areas of financial technology, smart environments and social apps. The event required no prior hackathon experience, and mentors and engineers from corporate partners offered assistance throughout.
"A lot of people look at computer science and say, 'I can't do that.' They have no idea where to start, and this is a great atmosphere because it's very collaborative," said Evan Klein '18, organizer of LehighHacks.
After initial presentations to judges, the top 10 teams were selected to pitch their projects on stage to determine a final winner. First place went to Burst, a tool for sending out personalized text messages to members of an organization as part of a mass text.
The symposium closed with a reception and an awards ceremony for LehighHacks in Bay C2.