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Public to see plans for Rock Hill Woolworth Walkway

Public to see plans for Rock Hill Woolworth Walkway

ROCK HILL — Artists designing the Woolworth Walkway will present their design concepts at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Monday at the courtroom of the Gettys Center, 201 E. Main St., Rock Hill. The public is invited to review the designs and provide comments. The walkway will connect an existing city-owned parking lot to a planned four-story, 37-unit apartment building fronting Main Street. Construction on the downtown apartments will begin later this year and is projected to finish in the first half of 2016.

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Knowledge Park and TI Center Make News

The Knowledge Park Innovation Center and Technology Incubator are mentioned in the most recent version of SC Commerce magazine. Click on the link below to see the article beginning on page 41.

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Old Town Rock Hill Seeks proposals from qualified Farmers Market Managers

Old Town Rock Hill has issued a Request for Proposals for a Farmers Market Manager.

Click HERE for the official RFP

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Friendship Nice: Guilty No More

ROCK HILL — A group of South Carolina civil rights heroes had their day in the sun on Wednesday morning, as their 1961 convictions for sitting at a whites-only lunch counter were “vacated, null and void, and set aside...dismissed with prejudice” in a Rock Hill courtroom.

“We cannot re-write history but we can right history,”Circuit Court Judge John C. Hayes said.

The Friendship Nine are guilty no more.

On Jan. 31, 1961, nine Friendship Junior College students – David Williamson Jr., Willie T. “Dub” Massey, Clarence Graham, James Wells, Willie McCleod, Mack Workman, John Gaines, Charles Taylor and the late Robert McCullough – along with civil rights organizer Thomas Gaither were arrested for sitting down at a lunch counter at McCrory’s in downtown Rock Hill. The next day, they were convicted of trespassing, with attorney Ernest Finney at their sides.

Rather than pay the $100 bail, the men chose to spend 30 days doing hard labor on the York County Prison Farm. Only Taylor allowed the NAACP to pay his bail so he wouldn’t lose his athletic scholarship. The civil rights movement of “Jail, No Bail,” was born.

On Wednesday, Finney, 83, who was the first black Chief Justice in the state of South Carolina, stood and once again represented the Nine, along with four other people who were arrested and jailed the next week after replicating their activities.

“Let the decision of the court today show the resolve of South Carolina to work together, to learn together and to progress together and to ensure the promises set forth in our Constitution that all men are equal under the law,” Finney said.

Moments later, 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett not only echoed Finney’s desires that the convictions be vacated, but also spoke on behalf on the entire state.

“Allow me to extend my heartfelt apologies to each of you for what happened in 1961,” he said. “You are my heroes.”

In his decision, Hayes wrote “(The Friendship Nine) were prosecuted solely based on their race...Such prosecution is on its face unjust under any definition.”

After Hayes read his decision, Brackett made an unusual request in this type of court proceeding. Typically, he said, when a conviction is thrown out, a person’s record is expunged. But in this case, he, along with Finney and the Friendship Nine, thought it would be appropriate to leave their records as-is, so history would remember their courageous acts.

Hayes agreed, and said a copy of his decision would be attached to the court records from 1961, so for the rest of time, anyone who looked at them would see the charges were thrown out.

In a press conference after the hearing, Clarence Graham, a Friendship Nine member who was 19 years old at the time of his arrest, got emotional as he talked about meeting a woman on Tuesday who was at McCrory’s on Jan. 31, 1961, when Graham and the others were arrested.

“She said, ‘I’m so sorry but I didn’t know what to do,’” he said.

Graham said the Friendship Nine’s legacy is far from finished. The group plans to continue to work for the advancement of equality and the betterment of society.

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Hackers Descend on a Campus Near You

Hackers Descend on a Campus Near You

Nick Quinlan’s parents didn’t quite understand the concept of a hackathon. No, he told them, being a hacker doesn’t mean breaking into things. It means building them.

In the early days of computing, Mr. Quinlan said, hackers were people who built things "elegantly." But the word eventually took on the negative connotation we know today.

Hackathons are events that bring together groups of people—many of them computer scientists, others just independently tech-savvy—to collaborate in building original software or improving existing technology, among other things.

As the commissioner of Major League Hacking, the official student-hackathon league, Mr. Quinlan is helping people to understand the true meaning of hacking.

This weekend marks a first for the league. Two major hackathons—PennApps, at the University of Pennsylvania, and MHacks, at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor—will be held on the same weekend to create what Major League Hacking is calling the busiest student-hackathon weekend on record. On Sunday the Major League Hacking website plans to livestream the finals and give everyone a chance to see what the more than 2,000 participants have created.

These days, hacking is almost a sport. College students (players) travel from all over the country, and even the world, to attend hackathons (tournaments) overseen by Major League Hacking (an official league).

The biggest difference is that hackathons aren’t nearly as competitive as, say, college basketball. Sure, some people focus on winning prizes, Mr. Quinlan said, but they’re in the minority.

"I’d say we’re most similar to a marathon," he said, in that the events are more about personal growth than winning or losing.

A Whirlwind of Hacking

Major League Hacking was created about a year and a half ago, as hacking culture was growing and hackathons were popping up on more and more college campuses. Each league-affiliated hackathon is independently organized, with the league providing mentorship, hardware to supplement student projects, and introductions to sponsors, said Mr. Quinlan, who graduated from Western Washington University in 2013.

The league has livestreamed events before, Mr. Quinlan said, but this will be on a much larger scale, with commentators (think ESPN) discussing the various hacks.

This weekend will be a whirlwind for the students participating in PennApps and MHacks. They’ll spend about 36 hours working almost constantly—maybe taking the occasional break for a nap, a round of Super Smash Bros., or a spontaneous yoga session—to build something unique.

At PennApps, every available space in the engineering quad will be occupied by hackers, said Pranav Vishnu Ramabhadran, a student organizer and a hacker himself.

At past PennApps events, the halls were filled with people just waiting to "explain to you what hack they’re making that’s going to change the world," said Mr. Ramabhadran, a sophomore in Penn’s management-and-technology program.

Mr. Ramabhadran has seen hacks that could be useful, like one that helps people quit smoking and other bad habits, and hacks that are cool but not entirely practical, like one that will complete your homework and answer it in your own handwriting.

PennApps is open to all Penn students—there will be workshops for those new to hacking—but students from outside the university must apply to participate, Mr. Ramabhadran said.

Acceptance isn’t based on having won, or even attended, other competitions, he said. What the organizers want to know is: "Are you a hacker at heart?"

Coders Screaming in Happiness

MHacks participants, including Michigan students, must also go through an application process. MHacks specifically tries to provide opportunities for first-timers, non-computer-science majors, and people in a variety of academic disciplines, said Vikram Rajagopalan, who got his job as a student organizer through a campus entrepreneurship program.

Mr. Rajagopalan, a sophomore majoring in information and computer science, is amazed at participants’ commitment. For the better part of a weekend, they do almost nothing but work on their hacks.

Mr. Rajagopalan has never participated in a hackathon. But after working to organize MHacks, he has been inspired and may decide to experience it from the hacker side next time.

Canzhi Ye, a freshman computer-science major at the University of California at Berkeley, will return to MHacks this weekend. During high school, Mr. Ye saw a friend’s photographs of projects made at MHacks and decided to attend the next one. At the time, the hackathon provided Mr. Ye with something he hadn’t encountered before: a group of people who, like him, loved coding.

"Just watching people code through the night, scream in happiness when they figured things out, it was exciting to see firsthand," he said.

Since then, Mr. Ye has attended about 10 hackathons. But he’s excited to return to MHacks, where it all began for him. He and his team plan an ambitious project—a lie-detector app—that they’re hoping to build at MHacks, though Mr. Ye admitted he’s not sure it will work.

PennApps and MHacks were two of the earliest, large-scale collegiate hackathons, said Mr. Quinlan, the league commissioner.

Just a few years ago, he said, there were only two major collegiate hackathons: HackNY, a joint effort of Columbia and New York Universities, and PennApps. "I remember going to school in Washington State and watching as somebody live-tweeted these hackathons happening, and being so jealous I didn’t live on the East Coast because I couldn’t go," he said.

But then the number of events started to increase—from those two to three to five to 15 to 36 and more. This "season," the spring academic semester, there will be about 70 collegiate hackathons affiliated with the league, Mr. Quinlan said.

The hacking community is "growing like crazy," he said. The league has found that, each season, about half of the participants are first-timers.

One of the league’s primary goals is to get more people involved in hacking while increasing diversity among hackers, Mr. Quinlan said. He hopes that the livestream will help demonstrate that hackathons are an opportunity to learn, make new friends, and even network with potential employers.

And they’re a chance to reclaim the term "hacker" and show the world—or, at least, parents—what it really means. 

Rock Hill council approves expanding tax district for Knowledge Park

The expansion of a special tax district to finance Rock Hill’s Knowledge Park economic development plan took one more step forward Friday.

Rock Hill City Council, on a 6-1 vote, gave the second of three required approvals to expand the tax district, which includes the former Rock Hill Printing & Finishing textile plant site.

If changes to the district are approved, the city wants to issue up to $40 million in bonds to pay for public improvements to the site. The bonds would be paid from additional tax revenue generated by new development.

Friday’s vote follows an agreement with Rock Hill schools reached Monday on extending the tax district. Because the school district and York County government each derive tax revenue from the district, the school board and York County Council must agree to any changes.

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