Stamford Innovation Center broadens its tech reach beyond the city

By Kevin Zimmerman

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Aiming to capitalize and broaden Stamford’s growing reputation as a technology hub, the Stamford Innovation Center (SIC) is rolling out both its first-ever Stamford Technology Week Sept. 14-18 and its inaugural Northeast Hackathon series Sept. 16 to Nov. 13.

According to the driving force behind the events, SIC Vice President of Operations Hugh Seaton, the goal is to draw together technologists, government and business leaders, as well as the general public in an effort to promote what’s currently happening in the tech world as well as what the future might hold.

“When entrepreneurs go looking for tech talent, they’re finding it’s not so easy to do because it’s very diffuse,” Seaton said. “We’re trying to address that. When we did our first hackathons last September and this past February, we found there was not really enough scale to them to be considered something beyond ‘just another event.’ Now we’re doing it on a scale that will make a much bigger noise.”

“Hugh joined us about a year ago and has had a tremendous impact,” said Barry Schwimmer, SIC founder and managing partner. “We got a great reception from the tech community on our last two hackathons. For us, this is building on that success.”

Stamford Technology Week will begin on Sept. 14 with the Smart Cities Summit, involving how sensors, data and analytics can be used to better understand how a given city’s buildings, roads and sidewalks are actually used. The summit will include industry and government panels, the latter including state Reps. Caroline Simmons (D-Stamford) and William Tong (D-Stamford). “Events like this really speak to Connecticut’s ongoing efforts to build a competitive edge,” said Tong in a statement.

The Northeast JavaScript Conference will follow on Sept. 15-16, providing opportunities for engineers and developers to learn about how JavaScript’s ever-evolving frameworks are used. Speakers from IBM, Priceline.com, Starwood and other companies are scheduled.

On Sept. 18, in partnership with Stamford’s Department of Education, the SIC will present an expanded version of its STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) hackathon/tech expo at Stamford High School. Open to students of all three of the city’s high schools, which include Westhill High and The Academy of Information Technology & Engineering, the event is designed to appeal to techies and the simply curious alike, with robotics and virtual reality among the technologies to be discussed and demonstrated.

Perhaps most ambitious of all is the Northeast Hackathon, which will run from Sept. 16-18 in Stamford before moving on to Bridgeport (Sept. 30-Oct. 2), New Haven (Oct. 14-16), New London (Oct. 28-30) and Providence, R.I. (Nov. 11-13). Teams from each city will be encouraged to create software, hardware and strategic solutions, as well as to work sequentially and collaboratively with teams and technology from the other cities, to address transportation challenges being faced by each city’s train stations — with New Haven’s Union Station the focal point.

“The Northeast Hackathon — and, really, the Stamford Hackathon and Stamford Technology Week — have all grown organically through talking to people and finding common interests and goals,” Seaton said. “It was much more evolutionary than something that started with a grand plan.”

“We see a real opportunity to extend (the hackathon’s) reach up the coast to help these people and these cities communicate with each other,” Schwimmer said. “The technology sector in Connecticut is frequently siloed, so this is a way that everyone can benefit. And for us, it’s increasing defining our area of influence.”

Seaton said the participation of high-profile sponsors such as IBM and Pitney Bowes underscores how important the tech community is coming to view SIC’s work.

All together, he added, he expects “a couple of thousand people” to attend Stamford Technology Week, with another few hundred involved in the Northeast Hackathon. Seaton said he’s already working on the SIC’s next conference, which will focus on virtual reality and take place in February 2017.

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