On Wednesday, the forlorn walls in the Erie Terminal Building in downtown Youngstown thrummed with excitement during Open Hack Night, an information and networking event for coding enthusiasts.
The event was sponsored by Code Youngstown — an umbrella group started last August by Youngstown State University graduate Nicholas Serra — to unite software developers and engineers, computer coders and computer programmers in the area of Youngstown.
Serra, a west side Youngstown resident and senior developer of Quick Left, a company that builds web and mobile applications for businesses, said he wanted to create a local space for people looking to network in any field of computing.
“It’s for anybody that does any kind of hacking. I knew there was a lot of talent in the area, but not everybody is connected. Before us, there really wasn’t anything in the area. You had to go to Cleveland or Pittsburgh to have a meet-up of any type,” Serra said. “Hopefully, we’ll get more people that are willing to get involved and actually do things for the group.”
Many out of the group that night were software engineers from the Youngstown Business Incubator and other local companies dedicated to sharing and creating new ideas and information, and encouraged the crowd to network with one another.
Jim Cossler, CEO of the YBI, said that he was excited to be a part of Code Youngstown’s opening event and hoped to gain the attention of some of the computer programmers in the area.
“We are really excited that this happened. We need these guys and we get lots of projects here, and have lots of projects that need coding. Sometimes we’ll just hire you. I’ve got a $197,000 software development contract that I would like to keep in Youngstown. Sometimes it is just a killer idea, and you could get some equity,” Cossler said.
Dominic Marchionda, director of operations and strategic planning at NYO Property Group and university planning coordinator of the Center for Urban and Regional Studies at YSU, explained that he wants to see more students involved in the area and working to restore Youngstown economically through the use of technology.
“I know nothing about coding, but I know the economic impact it can have … I know that the future of downtown — fixing up these old buildings, making these places great — is indicative of economic development,” Marchionda said. “Attracting people like you, giving you the quality of life, working at what you are talented and skilled at right here in Youngstown is everything. We want you in Youngstown.”
Adam Magaña, product leader at Drund, a private communications platform that allows anyone to share information through the web, said he wanted to support and connect with people interested in computers.
”I’m here to show support and hopefully meet some people that I don’t know from the area. That’s really what I want to get out of today,” Magaña said.
Ricky Elrod, vice president of the Association for Computing Machinery at YSU, said that the event offered him a chance to exchange contact with others in the computer science field.
“I work in the programming industry and it’s always helpful to meet new people that I can bounce ideas off of and talk to, and make new friends that share similar interests,” Elrod said.
Jim D’Andrea, a recent graduate of YSU and now chief technical officer for JuggerBot3D LLC — a 3D printing manufacturer that is still a work-in-progress — said he saw an opportunity for networking as well.
“Basically [I’m here] just to network. I’ve never been here before; I heard about it from Jim Cossler, and he said it was a chance to network with a lot of people who do coding in the area,” D’Andrea said. “I don’t really know much about coding, but I just figured it would just be a good opportunity to start networking with people.”
Tyler Clark, senior digital architect at Hitchcock Fleming & Associates Inc., a marketing and advertising agency in Akron, lives in Youngstown and graduated from YSU with a music degree. He said he wanted to meet others who were interested in computer development.
“I’ve spent some time at the Youngstown Business Incubator and did some freelancing in town, and I’m just interested in seeing a good community of developers in Youngstown who can rely on each other for projects and assistance. I wanted to come and check out this opening event and meet some people,” Clark said.
Thomas Zimmerman, a Youngstown resident, created a website, sweatpantsera.us, using his own software, along with applications that allow people to create their own photo mosaics and images where the lines and colors of the image are made up of tiny lines of text.
“I wanted to redo photo mosaics so they look more like pictures and less like mosaics. Basically, what this tool does is redraws anything in the style of anything else. I took the text from my favorite novel, Frankenstein, and I used over one thousand lines from the book to create his face,” Zimmerman said. “The goal of my website was to only use my own software and start every project with a completely blank screen. So far I’ve created 17 projects.”
Serra concluded that the event brought the technology-using community together.
“We have a lot of people in here that are involved in technology and involved in all of the things booming downtown,” Serra said. “A lot of times, we are somehow still isolated and this is kind of the way of pulling some university students, programmers, developers and YBI people into one space and collaborating.”