Take over 800 high school students, a slew of tech companies, an open 24/7 building, and a ton of caffeine. What do you get?
One of the biggest (and youngest) hack-a-thons on the West Coast!
This past weekend I had the opportunity to support the team at HSHacks, a 2 day long hack-a-thon hosted by Paypal HQ for a LOT of high school students in the bay area. Students came from near and far to participate in the event. Each of them were offered a variety of technologies to develop on from Andriod, to the Pebble watch to Microsoft tech like Touch Develop.
The participating students came from a variety of backgrounds and brought their own wide spectrum of devices, PC's, Mac's and even a few Ubuntu machines floating around.
Naturally we set up a pretty sweet device bar with all the Microsoft gadgets you can think of:
Our App lab room focused on Construct2 and TouchDevelop which are two great platforms for beginner coders to hack games and apps for. Each of the platforms allow students to eventually export their apps to the Windows Store.
(students learning how to use MakeyMakey with TouchDevelop)
We even brought in a few MakeyMakey controllers which are simple arduino devices that emulate keyboard presses by closing arbitrary circuits (think positive terminal on a banana, negative on your wrist and close the circuit with a finger tip). This video illustrates what I mean:
We took the ideas in the Makey Makey Video to create some make-shift foot pads for gaming:
Students could throw in a couple 'on key pressed' event handlers in their apps:
And all the sudden we have a creative controller for their apps!
We had that too! The top winning apps were:
- A 'Gravity Movie' themed game where the player could 'slingshot' from one interstellar body to another
- A pack of Makey Makey touch develop games
Winners took home Xbox Ones, Nokia phones and a Windows 8 laptop!
Overall I was very impressed about how many of these Students (of whom are ages 13-16) managed to code impressive experiences in such a short amount of time. This highlights how far we have come but how much more we have to go in getting CS education into schools. Of every group I talked to only about 1/3 of the students had good CS education and that was a combination of classes and self-teaching.
The best thing that came out of this event was the amount of learning that was distributed to such a large volume of students, from learning how to do web requests to running code on mobile and even embedded devices.
Next month Microsoft will be sponsoring LA Hacks another Student ran hackathon (http://www.lahacks.com/) April 11-13. Keep a look out for us there!