Nikole Gipps will never forget "net day," the day nearly 25 years ago when workers from Intel and Cisco came to install internet cables throughout her Santa Clara, Calif. school.
A high schooler with a talent for technology – her grandmother worked at Apple and brought loaner computers to the house throughout her childhood – Gipps was picked to help run the cables and learn the basics of computer networking.
Today she is a self-employed developer in Eugene, the founder of an online platform for sharing educational computer code and the head of a "coder-in-residence" program working to provide basic computer science instruction in Lane County schools.
Gipps is also a Hack for a Cause mentor.
She and other Eugene-area tech industry leaders have partnered with the Technology Association of Oregon on a two-pronged mission: develop more civic engagement within Lane County's tech community, while providing a forum for the next generation of tech workers to hone their talents.
Four years in, Hack for a Cause has quickly grown into one of Oregon's largest hackathons, with more than 250 people participating at this year's event in April.
"We're giving people a safe space to fail," Gipps said. "There's no grade, no losing your job. You can have an idea that bombs and it's fine. And you get to work with these industry people they aren't normally accustomed to working with, people who know how things work in the real world."