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Dyn’s Hackademy provides mobile apps for NH nonprofits

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 20. 2014 8:27PM

MANCHESTER — Twenty potential tech company founders, now attending schools in New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts, assembled last weekend at Dyn to develop mobile apps for six New Hampshire nonprofits.

To make it interesting, the attendees didn’t know when they arrived Thursday for the invitation-only four-day event that developing the apps would be their mission.

Hackademy, held for the second year, is the brainchild of Dyn CEO Jeremy Hitchcock, who envisioned it as a way to set people on a path to a bright future. It was also a way to get a look at outstanding students who might be recruited to work at Dyn someday.

The Hackademy, at Dyn’s headquarters at 140 Dow St., also gave the students a chance to see a fast-paced tech environment live and in person.

“We hope that makes them realize what is possible,” Hitchcock said.

Ali Rafieymehr, dean of Dyn University and director of instructional design, said he reached out to faculty at 11 schools: University of New Hampshire campuses in Durham and Manchester, Keene State College, Plymouth State and Southern New Hampshire Universities, Manchester Community College and NHTI, Champlain College and three Massachusetts schools, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Wentworth Institute of Technology and Northern Essex Community College.

“I asked for nominations,” he said. Would-be attendees were asked to write an essay on why they were the best candidates.

The event wrapped up Sunday with a presentation to their clients of the iPhone apps they developed for the nonprofits.

To get a feel for their “clients,” Rafieymehr said, the students had a meet and greet with representatives of the nonprofits: the Moore Center, the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire, Daniel Webster Council Boy Scouts of America, Mount Washington Observatory, Families in Transition and New Horizons.

The students were still in the dark.

“We didn’t tell them what they were going to do,” Rafieymehr said.

The students were divided into six teams with different colored T-shirts, bearing the logo and name of their nonprofit.

“It was impressive to see their work,” Rafieymehr said.

Kelsey Neil, who will be a junior at Plymouth State University this fall, was one of six women selected for the Hackademy. She is on the programming team at PSU, and when she goes to competitions, she said, she’s often the only female. So when she found out that just under a third of the participants were women, she said: “That was huge.”

The Raynham, Mass., resident said she hasn’t settled on a specific career.

“I don’t know exactly,” she said. “I take a course and I think ‘I want to do this,’ and then take another course and want to do that,” she said.

But as of right now, it looks like she will choose software engineering.

She was impressed with the people she met at Dyn.

“We met a ton of people. We heard directly from the CEO,” she said. “It was awesome.”

Vadim Manokhin, a Russian transfer student who just graduated from Wentworth Institute, said it was his first experience working with Apple. “That was the challenge,” he said, to apply general knowledge to a new system. “You don’t understand,” he said, then, you get it. “It was the best part,” he said.

Manokhin’s group worked on the app for the Boy Scouts, and he was pleased to hear the development director is looking forward to using it.

John Pelletier, development director for the council, attended the presentation of the iPhone apps Sunday and said he was impressed.

“Ours specifically was to assist with our popcorn sale and Scouting for Food,” said Pelletier. “Our Scouts go door to door,” he said, and the app can be used to keep track of where the Scouts went and their orders, or where they left door tags.

“The idea is that every time a Scout approaches a home, they would be able to enter that information,” he said.

As a result, Scouts won’t be doubling up on homes, or skipping them.

Rafieymehr said the apps work, but they can’t be used immediately.

“It has to be registered,” he said, and that process will take time, so he couldn’t set a date for their release.

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