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Hackathon to give ASU students chance to create Alexa commands for Cronkite News


flyer depicting a microphone and the words "Cronkite News 2Go"
February 24, 2021

Cronkite News, the daily news service at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is hosting a virtual Audio Hackathon to give all Arizona State University students the opportunity to design an experience for smart devices.

With its growing podcast offerings, including "Arizona in Focus," and its weekday audio news briefing CN2GO, Cronkite News uses audio-driven technology to broadcast its stories about Arizona. Listeners can ask Amazon’s Alexa, for example, to play Cronkite News briefings. In the coming year, Cronkite News will expand to include more content, including Spanish-language news briefings and a weekly sports show.

The hackathon will provide an opportunity for students to create their own, innovative audible commands and designs, which make up a new Alexa skill.

Students can attend an hourlong training at 9:30 a.m. on either March 8 or 9 — or watch a training online — to learn how to create an Alexa skill. ASU’s University Technology Office will lead the training and help students learn how easy and fun it is to develop a skill.

Students can enter their skills into a contest and must submit their final skill by midnight on March 12 for the chance to win an Echo Show, which is a smart display device with audio and video. Judges will name three winners and each will receive an Echo Show.

“Our Cronkite News students are so excited to produce a news briefing each weekday, and we’re anxious to introduce some of our new skills to Alexa, including a sports show and a Spanish-language news briefing,” said Cronkite News Executive Editor Christina Leonard. “It’s been so fun to experiment with this medium and reach new audiences, and Cronkite News wanted to invite all ASU students to learn how to use these tools and play as well.”

The schedule for the week of the Audio Hackathon is as follows:

  • March 8–9: Cronkite News kicks off the Audio Hackathon where students can attend virtual workshops to learn how to develop a smart device skill.
  • March 12: Students submit final skills for judging.
  • March 19: Judges announce the three winners, who will receive Echo Shows.

The Audio Hackathon will provide all ASU students new skills and a fun way to connect with others. There’s also the potential for Cronkite News to introduce the skill as part of its offerings.

“Our Cronkite News and sports students are under the excellent leadership of Sadie Babits, who runs our audio program, and has made tremendous progress in such a short period of time,” Leonard said. “We wanted to see what else we could do if we opened this up to everyone. We didn’t earn our status as ‘No. 1 in Innovation’ by sitting on the sidelines. Let’s see what our students can do!”

Register for Cronkite News’ Audio Hackathon here and learn more about special training events and the competition.

Written by Lisa Diethelm

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