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U student Johnny Le recognized for founding Utah’s largest programming marathon, HackTheU, which cultivated creative problem solving among hundreds of participants from across the country.

Johnny Le, a graduate student in computer science at the University of Utah, was recognized with the 2018 Ivory Prize for Excellence in Student Leadership during the April University of Utah Board of Trustees meeting. The Ivory Prize recognizes students for demonstrating a positive influence on student success and/or fostering efforts that have enabled meaningful change. It includes a $2,000 prize for the recipient and a $10,000 donation to their cause.

Le was honored for founding Utah’s largest programming marathon, called HackTheU. This type of event, also known as a “hackathon,” facilitates creative problem solving among people from multiple disciplines. Over the course of 24 hours, participants developed solutions to prompts using augmented reality, virtual reality, machine learning, artificial intelligence and other applications.

By the second HackTheU event, more than 300 students from across the region and the country attended, and teams created an augmented reality application for learning to interact with autistic children and a musical space odyssey in virtual reality.

“I’m grateful to the community and the university for allowing this kind of event to happen and flourish on campus,” Le said at the Board of Trustees meeting. “It is a testament to the talent and support found at this institution. HackTheU has opened doors and provided opportunities, not only for me, but for all those who participated in these events.”

The annual HackTheU event was inspired by similar programs at the University of Pennsylvania, Oxford and Stanford universities. To launch the program, Le brought together campus partners from the Medical School, Sorenson Impact Center, colleges of Engineering and Science, the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, Auxiliary Business Development and more.