StuyHacks Hosts its Ninth Annual Hackathon

Over 160 students and 20 mentors participated in StuyHacks’s ninth annual hackathon on Saturday, January 4.

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By Mary Shang

Over 160 students and 20 mentors participated in StuyHacks’s ninth annual hackathon on Saturday, January 4. This 12-hour event at Stuyvesant High School included workshops, group coding sessions, prize giveaways, and the opportunity for students across the city to collaborate and learn about computer science.

There were seven workshops that exposed beginners to different topics in computer science: “HTML and CSS,” “iOS,” “How to API,” “How to Build a Working Website with Python,” “Java/HTML/Javascript,” “Beginner React,” “Penetration Testing,” and “Pig Fat and How to get People Interested.” They were led and taught by Stuyvesant alumni and students.

Many participants enjoyed working on collaborative projects in teams of up to four members, which were judged at the end of the event for prizes. Students created a wide variety of applications and used programming languages including Python, Java, JavaScript, NetLogo, CSS, and HTML. A team of four sophomores, Jason Jiang, Steven Rakhmanchik, Esteak Shapin, and Christopher Dou, created a website to count and classify bird species in different locations. “Some challenges [we faced were] making the user login backend page and using artificial intelligence to classify birds accurately,” Jiang said. But as the team overcame their obstacles, Jiang noted that his experience brought him closer together with his teammates and made him excited to take on computer science in the future.

Planning for the event began last July following last year’s StuyHacks event, which was 24 hours long. Organizers in the Sponsorship, Design, Marketing, and Logistics departments created advertisements to promote the event to potential participants, planned the schedule and meals, communicated with sponsors, and designed T-shirts. Companies such as Digital Ocean, Insomnia Cookies, and LaunchX sponsored the event, enabling participants to win prizes such as Echo Dots and drones.

Many improvements were made in planning the hackathon compared to previous StuyHacks events. “We changed our judging system to be more fair and democratic [...] and created a system where a judge can compare two projects instead of going through all of the projects in order to eliminate bias,” senior and Executive Director Leilei Hao said. She also noted that the StuyHacks team publicized the event more effectively, as the Marketing department marketed through Facebook posts and reached out to Brooklyn Tech High School and Bronx Science High School hackathon organizations to inform their school communities.

Despite the success of the hackathon, coordinators of the event faced some challenges along the way, especially with space. “We have seen increased turnout in the past few years, which always presents a challenge,” senior and Director of Design Ahmed Sultan said. “One thing that’s going to be a challenge for next year is finding a bigger venue.”

Additionally, fundraising the event is often difficult for the organizers. “Many of our sponsors gave us prizes, such as stickers, but few of them gave us money,” Hao said. She hopes that in the future, sponsorship proposals will be more visual and provide more opportunities for companies to advertise during the event’s opening and closing ceremonies to incentivize donors and enable StuyHacks to continue running its hackathons.

Overall, the ninth StuyHacks hackathon was successful in bringing beginners and novices together to create coding projects in a supportive and engaging environment. Coordinators of the event hope to improve the hackathon for next year, when they will return to the 24-hour duration, by finding a larger venue to accommodate more participants to continue carrying out their mission of exposing more middle and high schoolers to computer science.