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Sean Alexander, Emerging Technologist at Georgia Tech making a difference

“We do not need magic to change the world; we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have the power to imagine better.” - JK Rowling




Thank you for speaking with us today. Kindly introduce yourself and share a little bit about your Millennium Fellowship project. 


"My name is Sean Alexander, a graduating business administration student from Scheller College of Business at the Georgia Institute of Technology. I am super passionate about the intersection of business, technology, and policy and enacting change through partnerships. That’s why during the Millennium Fellowship I focused on SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals to help utilize partnerships to create an SDG hackathon.

My project “ImpactHack" is the first of its kind SDG Hackathon focused on bringing together policy and technology, both computer science and engineering. We had over 200 students signed up from 13 countries including South Korea, China, Greece, Nigeria, Zambia, India, Bangladesh, Canada, and Kenya with students in the US from Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard, MIT, UC Berkeley, Cornell, Duke, Emory, Purdue, and more.  

We have students excited to combine both their policy and technology interests into one hackathon, one solution. With financial support from our campus partners, the Georgia Institute of Technology Sustainable-X Program, the School of Public Policy, the Ray C. Anderson Center of Sustainable Business, and the Georgia Tech Parents Fund, we were able to make the event happen seamlessly! We had over 16 submissions across our tracks where we invited agencies, nonprofits, corporations, and other organizations to sponsor a track within areas of gender equality, sustainability, urban planning, education, and more! We even had Teach for America help sponsor a track."


That's spectacular, congratulations on your impact. The Emerging Technologist vertical within the Millennium Fellowship was launched last year. How was your experience as an Emerging Technologist?


"It was a great experience getting to have the resources, programming, and support from both the main program and the tech vertical. Jasmine, the community manager, has been phenomenal with being able to support and her willingness to work with us in potentially shaping the program for the students. It’s exciting to know that the Millennium fellowship has recognized and is empowering technologists to be able to create a social impact. 


"It’s exciting to know that the Millennium fellowship has recognized and is empowering technologists to be able to create a social impact."

What problem does your project try to solve, and how does it do that?


I was able to partner with Startup Exchange, the largest student-led nonprofit entrepreneurial network and incubator in the United States Southeast, to help solve a few problems. One is connecting students, innovators, nonprofits, agencies, corporations, and all stakeholders into the conversation of building solutions. We were able to do this by intentionally designing the event to invite these stakeholders together to create impact together, similar to the 17 Rooms Initiative. Secondly, we worked to introduce interdisciplinary teams and concepts between technology and policy. We acknowledge that solutions for the future require multiple disciplines and that by bringing students of various backgrounds together, not only did we get students excited to create solutions but also energized to work with students from different backgrounds to amplify their impact and potential solutions. 




I wanted to create the concept of innovation for the future and social impact by bringing policy and technology students together. We understand that solutions for global challenges have to be interdisciplinary and have to include stakeholders from all across. We were able to not only have a great event, but also gain support from our partners to continue this in the future!

"We now have more students interested in interdisciplinary solutions and who understand that policy and technology innovation goes hand in hand when it comes to building solutions for the future." 

We had a group of three first-year students create Algasphere, a CAD 3D designed and printed solution meant to help collect algae in fish farms to prevent algae pollution and harm. It was amazing to see young students not just passionate about social change and applying what they learned in class, but also actually developing the solution in real life. We partnered with the MILL, Georgia Tech’s Material Science and Engineering Makerspace to allow them to 3D print their prototype!"


What were the biggest challenges you faced in implementing your project, and how did you overcome them?


"The biggest challenge was coordinating everything. I was blessed to have the support and partnership with Startup Exchange (SX) to help host the hackathon with me (I’m one of the executive co-directors of SX). I had a wonderful team coordinating over 200 students both online and in-person, plus workshops, over 10 different track submissions, about 15 judges with hybrid judging, meals for 3 days and t-shirts for the weekend. It was challenging to make such a quality event, from logistics to marketing and design all the way to fundraising and finances. By properly working with and leading the team, we were able to make the event a success!"


Amazing. And lastly, how did being a Millennium Fellow contribute to your achievements as far as your project goes? 


"The fellowship helped me understand how to frame the work we did and challenged us to understand how to better bring people together to make this happen and truly have an impact towards the sustainable development goals."

We are already working to develop a committee of students, campus partners, and other stakeholders to help build out next year’s hackathon. All of our campus partners have recommitted to hosting next year’s hackathon." 



 

Connect with Sean on LinkedIn. Millennium Fellowship Alumni, you can also share your story with the community. Reach out here: (alumni@mcnpartners.org)

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