StuyHacks Hosts Its Seventh Annual 12-Hour Hackathon

StuyHacks held its seventh annual 12-hour hackathon on January 12, where middle and high school students had the opportunity to learn computer science and develop innovative projects.

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By Julian Giordano

Over 100 hackers, 20 mentors, and eight judges came together to attend the seventh StuyHacks hackathon on Saturday, January 12. This 12-hour day of hacking provided middle and high schoolers of all experience levels with the opportunity to learn about computer science, code projects with friends, and win prizes.

It took immense preparation to bring this hackathon to life, with organizers arranging for food to be provided, organizing workshops, increasing outreach, and obtaining sponsorships. “It took around half a year to organize the event. We have two events every year, and it takes one semester to organize each one,” senior and Chief Coordinator of StuyHacks, Katie Wu, said.

The event had seven workshops that took place at different times and in different classrooms: How to Win a Hackathon, CSR: Public-Speaking/Making a Presentation, Penetration Testing, HTML/CSS, Javascript, Flask, and P5-Object Oriented Programming. All of these workshops were beginner-friendly and taught by engineers from different tech companies.

At the end of the event, each team took three minutes to explain their project to a panel of six judges: Bobby Kuzma from Core Security, Stephen Greco from Google, Samantha Whitmore from Kensho Technologies, Jerry Chan from BNY Mellon, Infant Vasanth from BlackRock, and Michael Zamansky from Hunter College. The judges, all pioneers in the field of computer science, assessed each project according to four categories: technical complexity, user friendliness, originality, and awesomeness. The awards included first place, second place, third place, best beginner code, most innovative code, and best game.

Many students were eager to participate and collaborate with others in the competition, regardless of their programming experience. “It’s rare to see so many people bonding over a shared passion for something, namely computer science,” senior Joan Chirinos said. “You don’t have to be extremely proficient in computer science to make something you can be proud of. The team of mentors, the sponsors, and the bounty [of] computer science experience would [...] help anyone of any skill level to make something amazing.”

Not everyone who attended the event submitted projects for the competition. Instead, many students wished to learn more about computer science and became engaged in the workshops and with mentors. “StuyHacks is more of a learning thing than a competing thing,” sophomore Michael Nath said. “Sure, you get prizes and there’s competition, but the atmosphere [is] more of just trying out things and learning from the people around you.”

This year’s hackathon improved upon some of the difficulties that coordinators encountered last year. “We used our experience from past years to make the event run smoother,” Wu said. “For example, last year, we had the hackers in different classrooms. [...] This year, we had everyone in the cafeteria and the library, which helped create a sense of unity and improve the atmosphere of the hackathon.”

Wu is looking forward to the spring hackathon, which will be 24 hours long instead of 12. Wu plans to find a suitable venue to accommodate the larger number of students who will attend. She also aims to survey this year’s attendees in order to decide which workshops students would like to participate in again. Though Wu considers the previous 12-hour hackathon to be a success, she plans to further improve the next one and make it an even better experience for all.