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Leaders of the Hack: Ascend Team Takes Top Prize at Hack Midwest 2022

July 29, 2022

More than a dozen team members from Ascend Learning’s Tech & Ops and talent acquisition teams came together at Hack Midwest in downtown Kansas City on July 23-24 to showcase their courage and selflessness, innovative abilities and collective passion to come away with a top prize and reinforce our strong presence in the local IT community.

Nick Ide, vice president of software engineering for Ascend’s healthcare segment, presented about Ascend Learning and the work of tech & ops teams during the event. He said Ascend came onboard as an event sponsor to increase the company’s presence in the local IT community and create opportunities for technical team members to showcase their capabilities and use new technology.

“Presence at events such as this has an impact on the recruitment of new talent,” Nick said. “Our team participation creates better employee engagement and helps develop their skills professionally. The creativity of all our team members is what makes our organization great, and we want to continue to find new ways for our teams to exercise those creative skills.”

Ascend sent two teams to compete against more than 250 engineers from around the KC metro area and the Midwest in the hackathon, in which teams are given a 24-hour window to ideate and execute a project from scratch that leverages one or many of the vendor provided technologies. Prizes are awarded across multiple categories including best use of blockchain, MongoDB, IPFS, video streaming, and best overall app.

Team members Tim Franzke, Robert Koons, Girish Shivaswamy, Pallav Saxena and Jim Sharp formed Team DeCAL, while Team SecureBadge brought together Duncan Ferber, Jason Brown, CJ Puvvula, Irappa Bisanakoppa and John Lalumondier.

Both Ascend teams focused on blockchain technology to create a means for providing certificates. Nick said that while this technology has been on Ascend’s radar, it has not yet been leveraged in any products, so the event represented a professional development opportunity.

“The teams were very excited that there were specific challenges that involved the use of Blockchain,” Nick said. “There is a natural alignment in terms of what Blockchain does and how we issue certifications and badges to our learners to recognize their proficiency in a particular area.  Blockchain allows these certificates to be created and verified on a decentralized network and that certificate can then be easily integrated into other platforms and social networks.”

At the end of the event, Team DeCAL from Ascend came away with the prize for best use of blockchain.

“Ascend is proud of all those that participated in the event and for enduring a sleepless night over a weekend to make this the first successful external Hackathon that Ascend has participated in,” Nick said. “Their creativity and accomplishments in such a short time was impressive. We look forward to seeing these skills on display in future events both internally and externally.”

Justina DeLuca and Niki Kearney also represented Ascend’s talent acquisition team at the Ascend booth during the event. Niki said the event provided an opportunity for their team to connect with talent ranging from current students to senior leaders in tech.

“As a talent acquisition leader for Ascend focused in tech & ops roles, being part of this event was inspiring to see our teams in action and to see the talent working in the tech space,” Niki said. “It was exciting to share our brand story with this group of professionals and talk about career opportunities at Ascend.”

At Ascend Learning, we’re proud of all our creative-minded, innovative teams for their outstanding efforts and for their demonstration of leadership in the tech community.