THON Director Thursday: Meet THON 2022 Technology Director Noah Gearhart
Name: Noah Gearhart
Major: Double major in computer science and applied math
Past THON Experience
THON 2020: Technology Captain (Dash Developer)
THON 2021: Technology Captain (Dash Project Manager)
Name an interesting, weird, or quirky fact about yourself:
I loved filmmaking in high school. I was a member of our A/V club every year, and I made a 100-episode vlog series for YouTube. Unfortunately, it was under a shared account that the school deleted a few years ago, so I only have leftover files on an old hard drive to prove it.
What made you want to apply for the Technology Director position for THON 2022?
Ever since I stepped foot in the Bryce Jordan Center for the first time during THON Weekend 2019, I fell in love with THON as an organization. I had a great friend who was a Technology captain at the time who inspired me to apply to be a captain. I am very proud to have been selected as a Technology captain for 2020.
Over the next two years, my life would change forever. I realized that THON was not just an organization I loved, but it was the home of hundreds of families and students.
To me, serving on the executive committee means dedicating everything I can to THON. I have a vision for the future of THON technology, and in this position, I get to execute it. I knew that this position was the best way I could spread the mission of THON through my talents and passion for working together with the other amazing people in this community.
What are your responsibilities as the Technology director?
As the Technology Director, I oversee the six development teams that comprise the Technology committee. These include the THON Information Network (THINK) team that manages our user directory and financial tracking systems; the THON Weekend Dashboard (Dash) team that drives our event management; the Systems team that upkeeps our digital infrastructure; the THON.org and User Experience teams that work together to make our software look and feel amazing; and the Special Projects team that fills in the holes the other teams leave.
In my role, I serve as a supervisor and liaison among stakeholders in the THON community with the committee. Besides some personal projects, I do much more administrative work than writing and reviewing code. All in all, my main responsibility is to make sure the committee gets their work done properly and on time.
What do you want to implement in your position ths year that’s unique and differs from years past?
This year has been filled with unique challenges brought on by the pandemic. Since THON Weekend 2021 took place virtually, significantly fewer volunteers have seen an in-person THON Weekend than in a normal year. This means that documentation and education are paramount every step along the way.
This year, we have seen a complete revitalization of THON’s knowledge sharing. Instead of relying on past experience, I see people around me asking tons of questions and writing every answer down. I am so proud of the community for taking this step, as it will have lasting effects on many THONs to come.
Through my position, I provide resources for the community to facilitate this knowledge sharing. In partnership with Microsoft, we held a training camp over the summer on the Microsoft 365 suite. Furthermore, I have encouraged the adoption of a few other software platforms to aid in documentation. Altogether, I believe 2022 will be the most well-documented year for THON yet.
What makes the Technology committee so cool, fun, and/or important?
The Technology committee provides real-world technical experience that rivals many internships. We utilize industry-standard software engineering techniques and architecture while mixing in bleeding-edge technologies throughout.
Furthermore, there are many stakeholders for Technology’s services throughout the THON community. Every project that a captain does will have a significant impact in some areas. It’s a feeling like nothing else to walk around during THON Weekend and see the smiling faces all around while realizing that you played a role in making this happen.
What are the overall goals you hope to reach with your committee for THON 2022?
We like to call the central goal of everything TECH does “force-multiplying.” The mission of the Technology Committee is to empower the THON Community through innovative software solutions. Through this, we take the effort of passionate members of the community and extend it. Instead of making phone calls to tens of prospective donors, we facilitate email newsletters to tens of thousands. Instead of closing doors in a small venue, we safely move thousands through our events using our digital solutions.
Most of the committee goals I have for THON 2022 are no different than my personal goals. The committee has faced many challenges coming away from a virtual year, but they have come out of it stronger. Through our commitment to writing everything down using our knowledge-sharing software, we ensure future THONs can learn from us.
Why do you THON?
In a world of billions, a country of hundreds of millions, and a university with tens of thousands, THON provides opportunities for each and every volunteer to make a substantial impact. Every single person in the THON Community is vital to the operation of THON. Every day, I wake up excited about what I get to do for this organization and the amazing work I get to see produced by those around me.
One of my co-captains in 2021 was a former dancer. She remarked that after dancing for 46 hours, she felt like she could do anything. I want that feeling of empowerment to carry THON’s mission throughout the world – every dancer, volunteer, family member, and child will know that nothing is impossible when we work together. “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”
What’s your favorite THON memory?
Friday night of THON Weekend 2020, I was tasked with fixing a problem that was causing issues with bands who were performing on stage when entering the Bryce Jordan Center. It turned out to be a very simple problem, but it was the greatest feeling in the world to fix. A major part of being a THON volunteer is understanding that every person makes a big impact, even if they don’t see it immediately. I looked around at the dancers, families, and children on the floor, and the spectators in the stands, all singing along to the performers on stage, realizing that I played a part in making this happen. I hope every member of the THON community has a moment like this where they can comprehend the amazing impact they have.
Per Onward State tradition, if you could be any dinosaur which one would you be and why?
I would be the Dino Input Device (DID) featured in this PIXAR paper from 1995. ILM developed the device to facilitate computer animation of the dinosaurs in the Jurassic Park movies. It looks just as cool as you would imagine, as it is basically a robot dinosaur.
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