FemHack Social Justice Grant

Published by J. Gregory McVerry on

Fingers crossed for this grant I submitteds with Dr. Lockwood

Mcverry, J. G. & Lockwood, H (2018) FemHack. An internal grant submitted to the Social Justice Group at Southern Connecticut State University


I. Overview

This proposal is for the second SCSU FemHack, an all-female (transgender and non-binary inclusive) hackathon for middle and high-school students in New England

The first FemHack was held on April 16, 2017, in conjunction with a Red Chair inclusivity campaign. On Sunday, March 31, 2019, we will host the second FemHack, with the goal of bringing more than 100 girls ages 11 to 18 for a day-long hackathon dedicated to exploring technology and working on collaborative, creative projects. Our mission is to create a hackathon experience for girls that promotes creativity and innovation for social good, with flexible tracks that meet the needs of students ranging from the experienced programmers to those just starting to explore the wonders of IT.

1.1 Key Personnel

The faculty who are actively involved in this project are as follows:

  • Dr. Lisa Lancor, Professor and Chair of Computer Science
  • Dr. Winnie Yu, Professor of Computer Science and Director of STEM-IL
  • Dr. Amal Abd El-Raouf, Associate Professor of Computer Science
  • Dr. Christine Broadbridge, Director of Research and Innovation
  • Dr. J. Gregory McVerry, Associate Professor of Curriculum Learning, Graduate Coordinator
  • Dr. Heidi Lockwood, Professor of Philosophy, Graduate Coordinator of Women’s Studies
  • The final organizing team will also include undergraduate and graduate students from CSC.

2. Importance of FemHack in relation to Social Justice

Women are vastly under-represented in America’s critical IT workforce. The most recent U.S. Census revealed that although women make up half the workforce, less than a quarter of the technology jobs are held by women. In 2013, only 26% of computing professionals identified as female, down from 35% in 1990. That same year, only 18% of computer science degrees went to women, and the number has not changed much since. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2022 there will more than 1.3 million open jobs in computer science. IT jobs are stable, high-paying positions that can provide long-term prosperity and improve one’s standing in society. There is also ample evidence to suggest that diverse design teams produce better products; the introduction of women, especially women of color, to design teams provides a different perspective and often infuses the development process with a focus on social good.

To address the lack of equality in the workforce we must turn to efforts of community and education. The FemHack organizing team believes that we need to recreate a culture that embraces feminist pedagogies, to ensure the loudest voices do not always win and other voices are not held down in hegemonic patriarchy that have left so many women, transfolk, women with disabilities, and Women of Color vulnerable to attack. We need to diversify the web.

We truly believe that without genuine diversity, there is less intellectual capacity and less room for groundbreaking ideas. With this in mind, FemHack aims to have at least 40% attendance from underrepresented groups, including Black, Latinx, girls of color, and girls with disabilities. We will be working with mentors of color, and, with a network of volunteers from at least four different states, actively reaching out to middle and high schools in urban areas with the message that we can provide assistance with busses for schools who are able to coordinate groups and chaperones.

Thus we will utilize the  FemHack event  as a community circle of restorative justice on the web. If funded on Saturday March 29 and Sunday March 30, with mentors and organizers who will then stay to support the hackathon teams. By the time problems of  diversity in tech gets to the human resource department it is too late. Through projects like FemHack we hope to overcome historical inequities and challenge mindsets towards gender and technology.

3. #Femhack Plan and Timeline

A hackathon (aka a hackfest or codefest) is a rapid-paced software design event in which programmers learn or engage in activities related to software development, including the tasks performed by graphic designers, interface designers, project managers, and other subject-matter experts who work intensively, often competitively, on a specific software challenge.

Our femhack event draws heavily from social justice pedagogy and presents itself as an alternative to the traditional hackathon that rely on practices which reinforce traditional cis-male hegemony. For example, in traditional male-dominated hackathons, participants get credit for staying up for “48 hours” and living off of Energy Drinks and Soylent, a meal replacement drink. These practices reinforced rather than attacked traditional barriers of access. We aim to have an all-female event dominated by feminist principles of nurturing and collaboration towards a shared social good.

Specifically we make explicit learning design decisions based off of feminist pedagogy. We build our events with and to target underrepresented populations, give out the topic weeks ahead of time, provide teams with mentors, build in supporting events before the hackathon such as pitch nights, and do not include overnight coding sessions. The event open and closes with “community circles” and judging will be done through open consensus.

We also provide pathways to leadership to Southern Connecticut State University students who join the organizing committee...Anyone can join the group they just need to file an issue, add their name, or edit a file in our online community group. Students who take on organizing roles will learn how to plan events, use GitHub, and agile approaches commonly used in the technology world such as scrum boards, and lead project management teams. #FemHack will provide students will the skills beyond coding needed to succeed in the modern workforce.

The two day event will open on Saturday with brief fifteen minute intros and an introduction of the #FemHack teams. This will be followed by two brief 15-20 minute keynotes.The #FemHack teams will then gather and begin to hack away at their projects. They will have access to our computer labs on campus.

On Sunday, after an opening circle, everyone will engage in a day at hacking away at personal projects.The #FemHack teams will also engage in a critical round robin on Saturday will they will get to run their designs by the experts on the other teams. So if a team needs help with\ javascript, for example, and another team has an expert they can meet for “just in time” mentoring.

Late afternoon Sunday we will then gather for live demos. Each team will present their project. Then any female, transgender and non-binary inclusive attendees at the session will select winners in a variety of categories through consensus discussions

The  event will then close with a circle ceremony where all #femhack are asked to gather and voluntarily share insights or key learnings they will take away from the session.


#FemHack Task


With social media today we face a barrage of messages, advertisements, and images. This can have an adverse effect on how we shape identities. At the same time remixing and art allow us to challenge the dominant narrative. So many people join the web through art not code.

Use your art of coding to help onboard others to code through art.

Your task:  Create something that allows for critical analysis of multimedia through the art of  remix.



  • Your app, website, tool, RPG, etc must allow for the remixing of more than one multimedia source for a user to create derivative work.
  • Must allow you to stack or use different media types (pictures, movies, sound, text
  • Keep record of urls of original work


  • Take advantage of Creative Commons Search
  • Allow for licensing of the work
  • Output a file(s) for self-hosting


  • An infographic maker using HTML and CSS Grid so it is A11y friendly.
  • A #HTMLFirst digital storytelling engine that allows you to layer different media on slides
  • A meme maker for political advertisements.
  • A browser extension to embed challenges to claims and evidence on a website

Prior Examples


3.2 Timeline

Our timeline for planning and delegation purposes is as follows:





Person Responsible

Recruit Organizers


Lisa Lancor, Winnie Yu, and other CSC faculty.

Build website


McVerry and CSC volunteers

Graphic Design Charrette for Logo


Graphic Design faculty and volunteers

Secure facilities



Create marketing materials

  • Print
  • Social media


Lockwood on lead, working with CSC students and Integrated Communications & Marketing

Recruit volunteers


Everyone, Lockwood on lead

Secure speakers/mentors



Set up Ticketing system



Recruit Teams


Everyone, Lockwood on lead

Send out task



Have teams meet mentors



Remote Pitch Night



FemHack Event









Keynote Speaker/Mentors

We will use 1,000 from the social justice grant to hire two keynote speakers who will give two short talks and then attend the event



We will also hire a facilitator to emcee the event. They will act as a panel moderator, an impartial coordinator of the judging, and introduce all events.


Food for event

We anticipate 100 participants and 25 volunteers, $10 per person for lunch (to be supplemented by snack donations from Computer Science and Women’s Studies), and dinner.



Plan for Providing Report to SJG Committee (max 250 words)

Everything created from this project, from the planning notes, the code to the websites, to conference proceedings will be released with a public domain license. Individual teams will choose how to license what they make.

We will utilize a mix of print and digital media to share our story with the greater community. We have also built and will continuously update a project website at We will be live blogging and live tweeting during the event. We will also invite local community press to cover the event.

Finally we will send a final report of 500 words or less to the SJG committee by May 1, 2019. We also plan to research student learning throughout the project and will present the results at national and international conferences.