One of the largest student tech organizations in the country is killing it at FIU. The university’s chapter of the national Upsilon Pi Epsilon honor society has 800+ members and hosts the largest hackathon in Florida.
ShellHacks annually attracts more than 1,000 students (previously in person, currently hybrid) from Florida and beyond and rounds up dozens of Fortune 500 company sponsors — including Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Oracle — as well as established and burgeoning local tech firms. Participants work in groups to develop innovative solutions to real-world problems, learn about the latest advances, network with industry representatives and more.
In 2020, UPE launched a new hackathon at the request of FIU’s leadership. PantherHacks was born to focus on solutions around the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We really develop programs to provide experiential learning opportunities where students can bridge their education with their career and break into the tech industry,” says UPE president Nicholas Gonzalez, a computer science major who has interned at Facebook and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
Gonzalez says UPE plays a pivotal role in preparing students to contribute to the hot Miami tech scene around which local industry and city leaders have converged. “We have the talent pipeline available,” he says of what he sees among his high-achieving peers.
The organization also sponsors workshops to deepen students’ skills in areas such as application development and hardware engineering, and conducts outreach at local high schools, particularly in underserved communities, to spark interest among the next generation.
“FIU’s mission of really providing students with learning and leadership opportunities and putting students first,” Gonzalez says, “that’s really what sets FIU apart.”