A Hackathon is an exciting way to bring together teams of motivated people of various backgrounds in a determined push to answer a specific question through self-expression and creative use of technology. The Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship is proud to partner with various companies throughout the hospitality industry to provide an opportunity for this type of collaborative problem solving.
A hackathon is an event in which students analyze a series of challenges and must present solutions to these challenges with the help of supporting data. Student teams work over the course of a weekend with the help of industry and faculty mentors to develop an idea or product. Students present these ideas to judges in a business or “shark tank” pitch to determine a winning team.
No. While many hackathons do traditionally focus on coding and technology, this is not a requirement. The Cornell SC Johnson College of Business encourages hackathon style events that may focus more on idea generation, problem solving, and business pitches than on actual coding and products. Alternative ways to think of these events would be as a “Shark Tank”, “Think Tank”, or “Thinkathon.”
Typically, these events are open to all students at Cornell University. Demographics often include a large mix of students from different schools, programs, and grades. A successful Hackathon may contain anywhere between 50 and 200 student participants depending on the topic. In addition to student participants, each Hackathon requires the participation of judges, mentors, and support staff. The Cornell SC Johnson College of Business can help staff these roles but we recommend representatives from supporting organizations and industries be involved.
Hackathons are typically held over the course of 3 days, usually on a weekend to maximize student availability. The first day introduces challenges, clarifies any rules, provides relevant data, and allows for team formation of 3 to 6 participants each. The second day is primarily a working day for participants to work through challenges and develop their ideas/products. The third and final day is when teams must pitch their projects to a panel of judges to determine winners. Food is provided throughout the event and mentors are constantly present to help students develop their concepts.
For students the benefits include exposure to real world problems, networking opportunities, and potential prizes. For supporting organizations, these events can provide brand awareness amongst students, unique solutions to actual business problems, soft recruiting opportunities, and improved collaboration with our faculty.
Every Hackathon is unique and different levels of support offer different opportunities. Depending on how involved an organization may wish to be in a Hackathon, you may need to provide judges or mentors, develop challenges, provide data sets, identify rules, determine prize categories, set the schedule, or provide financial support. We recommend reaching out to our team to begin discussing the specifics of how you can get involved.
Reach out to our team at email@example.com to begin discussing how you can get involved. We recommend reaching out well in advance, as a typical hackathon requires 6 to 9 months of planning to succeed and due to a very full academic calendar, we are only able to support select events at specific times.
Question: Who can register?
Answer: We welcome any and all Cornell students to participate on a first-come first-serve basis. There is no screening process and no limitations, any student from any background is encouraged to join us.
Question: Do I need an idea to participate in the hackathon?
Answer: No. Three themes will be shared Friday evening and students will have a chance to recruit team members.
Question: What will be the Challenges for this Hackathon?
Answer: Three challenge topics will be announced during our kick-off session on Friday. All three topics will be related to hospitality and will rely on data provided. You will be able to self-select the challenge that most appeals to you and your team.
Question: Do I need to know how to code to participate in a hackathon?
Answer: No. The best teams are made up of individuals from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Representation from various degree programs, education level, gender, etc. can foster excellent ideas and results.
Question: Do I need a team to register?
Answer: While teams are encouraged to register, they are not required. Cornell students are welcome to register individually and will have an opportunity to form teams at the event on Friday night.
Question: What do I need to bring?
Answer: You will need to bring your own personal hardware (laptop, charger, tablet, etc) to work on the Hackathon challenges. You will need your Cornell ID to access the building. We will supply you with relevant data access and power. Food and beverages will be provided throughout the entire weekend. You are welcome to stay at eHub as long as you like on Friday and Saturday so you may also want to consider bringing headphones, sweaters, and sleeping supplies if desired.
Question: Does it cost money to participate?
Answer: No. The hackathon is entirely free for students. All meals are provided (Friday dinner through Sunday Lunch).
Question: I have questions, who should I contact?
Answer: Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for additional questions.
Cornell Hospitality Hackathon 2021 – a business case competition with a hospitality focus
Brought to you by Hilton & Salesforce/Tableau
Theme: Elevating the Hospitality Experience for a Post-Pandemic World
The COVID-19 pandemic has created two unique problems for the hotel industry: Guests with health safety concerns want to limit interactions with hotel employees while simultaneously hotels are facing a labor shortage due to the flurry of unexpected hotel closures since March 2020.
- The pandemic has transformed the way many guests want to interact with hotel employees. What are some ways we can accommodate the guest that wants less human interactions during their stay?
- With the start of the return to travel, many hotels are struggling to fill open jobs. What changes need to be made to attract back both former employees who may have left the industry while recruiting new and differentiated candidates for a career in hospitality?
Hilton Hackathon in the News
Overall Winner: Hiltonality
Hilton with a personality- a personified, incentive-based intelligent digital ecosystem through an integration with the existing ‘Hilton Honors’ app for the guests and an additional iPad app ‘Hilton Hires’ for their employees. The application was a curation informed by visualizing Hilton’s real-time data through Tableau!
- Armaan Goyal ’22 (Nolan)
- Kalil Allon ’22 (Eng)
- Tanaya Yadav ’22 (Eng)
- Hamid Waraich ’22 (Nolan)
Best Data Visualization: Faria
Faria recognized the problem of low app engagement and various levels of efficiency across markets. They proposed an online check-in/check-out solution as well as a Digital Key integration will Apple Wallet to allow guests to avoid using the existing app. Their data visualizations created in Tableau show line charts, pie charts, and area graphs to highlight key challenges.
- Jorge Calvar ’22 (Eng & MBA)
- Diego Fernandez ’24 (Eng)
- Alvaro Guerrero ’22 (Eng)
- Carlota Lopez ’22 (Eng)
Best Digital Solution: Team Johnson
Team Johnson explored the entire customer journey from booking to next trip planning and identified key areas of opportunity to integrate digital solutions. They proposed enhancing the existing Hilton Honors app with more features, such as a real time live folio and F&B ordering, to create a more seamless guest experience.
- Alicia Park ’22 (MBA)
- Grace Allen ’23 (MBA)
- Jae Lee ’22 (MBA)
- Jayme Chen ’22 (MBA)
- Lynda Liu ’22 (MBA)
- Sandra Pan ’22 (MBA)
Best Labor Solution: notliH
nohliH proposed a solution to flip the current recruitment process around, by partnering with local educational institutes to attract part-time talent and expose students to the industry early on. They referenced a real use case of a high school that currently implements this program and expanded on the potential of more co-op programs and how this will help combat current labor challenges.
- Amy Cao ’23 (Nolan)
- Rosemary Wei ’23 (Nolan)
- Julian Huang ’23 (Nolan)
- Andrew Cai ’23 (Eng)
- Eric Huang ’24 (Eng)
Hilton Hackathon in the News
- Cornell Chronicle: Hackathon merges data savvy with passion for hospitality
- HospitalityNet: Hilton and Cornell’s Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship Bring Student Innovators Together for On-Campus Hackathon Students Challenged to “Revolutionize the Customer Journey” – with the Hotel Industry Emerging the Big Winner
- Hotel Business Exclusive: At Hospitality Hackathon, Students Challenged to Revolutionize the Customer Journey