Holidays & Hackathons

Words cannot describe the full experience of throwing a Hackathon at the Clubs. Still, I fully recognize that this is a blog so I’ll try for you, dear readers. Going into the process of planning this event was intimidating to say the least. I’ve found many articles and resources detailing how to plan a Hackathon. The shortcoming of these is that almost none were youth-centered. Kelly and I challenged ourselves to make this event both accessible to beginners and challenging for youth with experience. Additionally, we had the support of HackOut and the other Code Corps VISTAs.

In the end, we choose MIT App Inventor because of its similarity to Scratch’s interface and the many online tutorials and resources. During the event, all of our attendees formed groups and coded Android apps for phones that helped improve the community. We provided subcategories (healthy lifestyles, sports, friends/family, academics) to give the theme more direction for youth. I was wholly impressed by the range of ideas/interpretations. Here are a few examples of apps:

CommuniMeet App: This app allows the user to send an invitation to a select group of friends/family to meet up anywhere! It allows groups of loved ones to stay close and connected.

Sports, Exercise, History App: This app allows the user to pick a sport (each group member picked one unique to their interests), learn history about it, and get a healthy lifestyle tip on how to play.

Everyone (volunteers included, bless them) worked hard to make the most of the event. During the day I saw a lot of brainstorming, hard work, collaboration, and the occasional dance break (never underestimate kids LOVE of the Whip/Nae Nae). My favorite moments were when I would innocuously walk by and kids shot out of their seats to show me their work. It was fantastic. The day ended with the App Showcase, each group showed off their apps with their Chromebooks and posters. We even had a fair amount of parents come out!

Overall, I would consider the event successful in a lot of ways. After talking with participants afterwards, most had positive experiences. Not to mention, there was a heightened amount creativity and collaboration than I’ve seen in CS First alone. I have no doubt that all these kids will create great things in the future.

Thankfully, the only issues we had all day were related to group dynamics (some groups were larger than others). We managed to stay on schedule and (mostly) on task. Planning the Hackathon was both challenging and rewarding. In the end, I learned a lot about myself and planning large events. Like anything I’ve planned, there are things to adjust and change for next time. Still, my philosophy is this: if the kids are content, I’m content. That said, I was even more content after getting a full night’s rest that night.

Happy Holidays everyone! I hope you feel inspired to create and code some ideas of your own.

Until next time,