Creating Reality Hackathon at USC – diversity, new people, new ideas, and original work

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Just one week ago the first Creating Reality Hackathon at the University of Southern California came to a close with an awards ceremony awarding prizes to 15 teams out of 52 teams submitting projects. Participants, mentors, workshop leaders, judges and organizers loved the experiences of this once in a lifetime community.

Ben Nelson, AT&T Sr. Product Marketing Manager, awarded the $5,000 VR Grand Prize to Tai Chi VR, a VR app aiding students to learn movement from an instructor using the HTC Vive. Clayton Biele, Director at Fox Innovation Lab, awarded the $5,000 AR Grand Prize to Synthesis, a spatial audio synthesis experience using the Microsoft Hololens. The complete list of winning teams is on the official Creating Reality Hackathon website.


Diversity and Original Work – Open Source Projects Available to Everyone

Our Creating Reality community is one third women, with participants traveling from 12 countries and representing 37 races and countries of national origin. Starting with an unaffiliated and diverse field of participants made it easier to achieve the Hackathon’s goal of original work.

All the winning teams have been posted to the official Creating Reality Hackathon website. About two-thirds of the projects have been described on Devpost with a link to the code on GitHub. All projects are licensed under an open source license and assets are licensed under Creative Commons, so anyone in the world can download, improve upon, and resubmit without incurring any cost. Take a look at the amazing graphics assets created by Tai Chi VR licensed under Creative Commons terms.

Many of the top performing teams shared two characteristics: diversity and never having met one another before coming arriving at USC. For example, StrokeRehabVRthe team that won the Medical and Healthcare category, is made up of five team members that traveled from five different countries to meet, collaborate and create with people they did not yet know.


StrokeRehabVR, winner of Medical and Healthcare Category

  • Andrew McGregor - U.S.
  • Cecilie Fjellhoy - Norway
  • Tushar Purang - India
  • Nikolas Papastavrou - Greece
  • Jomar Gacoscos - Canada


Interdisciplinary Teams
We brought together 330 largely unaffiliated people and what we expected to happen, happened. After a day of enabling workshops, Bernadette Irizarry distilled this large group into interdisciplinary teams of five or fewer.

By the numbers

  • 4 days
  • 330 participants
  • 33% women
  • 12 countries
  • 21 workshops
  • 46 mentors
  • 25 judges



USC was the precipitating sponsor, granting access to the Tutor Center venue for the hackathon and guidance. Then we had amazing sponsors who committed money, loaned equipment and sent their teams to lead workshops and mentor participant teams. We granted travel scholarships to a large number of students and childcare subsidies because Fox Innovation Lab responded to our last-minute appeal.


Community Project Led by Volunteers

The volunteer team of organizers performed a herculean task in the first year of this Hackathon. As inspired and creative as our participants, the volunteers organized the event with the same passion and urgency, making it a wonderful experience for everyone.