Education, Human Resources, and Technology

Nonprofit producing City Hacks GR

September 14, 2017
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Fabian Elliott
Fabian Elliott. Photo via

A nonprofit that helps connect urban students to technology careers is hosting an inaugural four-day event that includes a hackathon worth $5,000 in prizes.

Grand Rapids-based The Midwest Tech Project, founded by Jonathan Jelks and Alvin J. Hills IV, will host the first City Hacks GR Tech Weekend and Hackathon Sept. 14-17 at various locations throughout the city.

Ken Miguel-Cipriano of Grand Rapids-based Theta Ventures is a co-organizer.

The weekend kicks off Thursday night with a forum on the city’s goal of becoming a national tech hub. Discussions and keynote presentations will follow at other locations, with a “hackathon” taking place at Grand Rapids Public Schools’ City High School Friday through Sunday.

Jelks said the hackathon is the event’s centerpiece. Participants will create and present the most creative “hacks,” or business concepts and/or tech ideas, with a chance to win up to $5,000 in cash and prizes.

“We came up with the idea for this weekend with the intended purpose of growing our community's tech talent pipeline by inviting those already involved in the tech industry to showcase their skills for a chance at a cash prize,” Jelks said.

“In doing so, we hope to help continue exposing — and connecting — the residents of Grand Rapids to the numerous diverse opportunities in West Michigan’s growing technology ecosystem.”


Attendees of the free event are asked to RSVP online.

Midwest Tech Project

The Midwest Tech Project was created to connect urban students to the world of technology and the tech industry. The vision of The Midwest Tech Project is to “equip students with the technological skills to enter the tech industry, while learning the process of how to become a successful tech startup.”

City Hacks GR Tech Weekend and Hackathon schedule

Thursday, 6-8 p.m.

“GRMI: Still the Furniture City or America’s Next Tech Hub?” forum at Start Garden, 40 Pearl St. NW, Suite 200, in Grand Rapids

Forum participants: Mike Morin, president and CEO of Start Garden; Aaron Schaap, founder and CEO of The Factory, Elevator Up and Co-Learning West Michigan; Meredith Bronk, president and CEO of Open Systems Technologies; Luis Perez, founder of Loop Coding Center; Mary O'Neill, business partner, Atomic Object

Friday, 6-8 p.m.

“GR’s Tech Night Out” Technology Fair at Grand Rapids City High School, 1720 Plainfield Ave. NE in Grand Rapids

Keynote speakers: Laura Eagan and Leeann Drees, co-founders of Ellell & Co., a Detroit-based web development company

Saturday, 1 p.m.

“Diversity in Tech: Inclusive Practices for Equitable Results” keynote, The Factory, 38 W. Fulton St., Suite 400 in Grand Rapids

Keynote presentation: Fabian Elliott, founder and CEO of Black Tech Mecca Tech in Chicago and advertising technology consultant at Google


Hackathon at Grand Rapids City High School

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