Wharton hackathon introduces underclassmen to real life business scenarios at a fast pace.

Credit: Daniel Xu / The Daily Pennsylvanian

Last weekend, a multibillion dollar company tasked Wharton School underclassmen with finding solutions to pressing business issues at Wharton’s first ever business hackathon.

Huntsman Hacks, a “business hackathon” at Huntsman Hall, provided a competitive platform for freshmen and sophomores to use the skills they learned in their Wharton classes and apply them to real-world business problems.

For its inaugural event, Huntsman Hacks was organized by the Wharton Dean’s Undergraduate Advisory Board and sponsored by Alibaba, a multibillion dollar company based in China. 2003 Wharton MBA graduate and Alibaba Vice President Brian Wong worked with WAB to organize this sponsorship.

“What we are looking for is a global perspective,” Wong said. “Being able to address problems from not only an American perspective, but an international perspective.”

Wong said Alibaba formulated many of the case studies presented in the competition and aimed to get students to extend their thinking outside of the confines of the Wharton curriculum.

“Our inspiration came from the gap between what students learn in the Wharton classrooms and applications to real situations and challenges companies continue to face,” said Wharton freshman Saurin Patel, a member of WAB.

The competition design is a new approach to the term “hackathon.”

“Normally hackathons are for coding, but this is a business hackathon — something I’ve never heard of before,” Wharton freshman Melinda Hu said.

Huntsman Hacks created an opportunity for business students to participate in hackathons by merging the time constraints and pressure of a traditional hackathon with the application of learned material done in a case study.

“I thought I could never really be involved in [a hackathon] because I didn’t know the different coding languages,” Wharton freshman Candra Feng said. “But having a business form of a hackathon, I thought was really interesting.”

Wharton freshman Emily Zhao said she appreciated that Huntsman Hacks was only open to underclassmen, since many business competitions are geared toward upperclassmen.

“I loved how they said specifically freshmen and sophomores,“ Zhao said. “Even if we came in not knowing exactly what we are doing, it was a really good experience.”

Underclassmen said Huntsman Hacks was a learning experience, providing them with practical situations to apply classroom knowledge.

“This competition was a way for us to really understand how companies actually work,” Wharton freshman Cheryl Li said. “I think in Wharton courses it’s all very hypothetical, and getting the opportunity to actually put that knowledge to work is really important.”

All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.