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Hackathon returns to Bishop Ireton High School

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Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria will host its third hackathon, HackBI III, Dec. 7-8. HackBI is a student-run hackathon where participants have 24 hours to learn how to code and/or work with friends to create a unique project. The student leaders of HackBI III are seniors William Mueller and Franky Padilla-Coo, and junior Critter Johnson.


In addition to the high school hackathon, HackBI also features a mini-hackathon where eighth graders can spend 12 hours learning how to code and make ideas come to life. Part of the main HackBI team runs the middle school event and teaches workshops specifically for the eighth grade attendees.


“To me, the hackathon is a place where anyone can come and learn something,” said HackBI III leader Mueller. “Whether they're a middle schooler who hasn't taken any computer science classes yet or a high schooler who has taken multiple, all are welcome to participate and learn from our mentors, workshops and great team.”


What needs to happen in order to create a complex event like a hackathon? A group of students, the HackBI team, get together to brainstorm, plan and execute all of the logistics for this marathon event. Mary Briody, one of the teacher moderators of HackBI III who also worked with the team last year, said, “The students who ran the hackathon (in 2018) were some of the most impressive students I have observed and interacted with. Besides the many meetings here at school, this year’s team has spent countless hours on Sunday evenings back to February 2019 live conferencing with one another.”


Though a big commitment, the Hack BI III team divides the work among its 19 members into smaller teams. There are teams that plan food, swag and merchandise; create graphics and other branding materials for social media and marketing; manage adult volunteers, facilities requests, workshop development and scheduling; and a separate team to handle the middle school portion of the hackathon.


“HackBI rocks,” said Terri Kelly, the teacher moderator for HackBI I, II and III. “Not only do students gain a lot of insight into the field of computer science while having a great deal of fun, the leadership team gains incredible experience while running every aspect of the event. It is exhausting but also exhilarating.”


Each team within HackBI has a lot of responsibility. In order for the hackathon to be successful, each needs to work hard. One member of the Hack BI III team, sophomore Courtney Quinn, said, “Just the same as being a part of any team, it can be intimidating at first. But we all work together well and the work we have to do is ultimately rewarding when the hackathon happens.”


Along with the responsibilities of the team, a few of the members are teaching workshops in several different computer science areas. The workshops help the students who attend the hackathon learn different coding languages and discover new talents. Sophomore Ashley Michaelis, who went to Hack BI II as a freshman, said, “After the hackathon and learning from the different workshops I attended, I was motivated to explore tech fields and take more advanced computer science courses at Bishop Ireton.”


Different prizes are awarded to standout performers in various categories during the hackathon. The categories in which participants compete are chosen by the team based on the theme the team picks for the hackathon. Last year, the theme chosen was “save the ocean.” This year’s theme will be revealed when participants arrive at HackBI III in order to give everyone an equal amount of time to work on their project.


This year, the grand prize is an internship with Decipher Technology Studios. Other prizes awarded are related to tech and last year included giveaways ranging from the Amazon Echo Dot to drones to keyboards.


“The hackathon is an amazing opportunity for people interested in computer science to collaborate on a project to solve a problem,” said Johnson, one of the student leaders for Hack BI III and also a recipient of the internship with Decipher.


HackBI engenders a strong sense of community, partly due to the importance of adult volunteers who support the event. Adult volunteers ensure the general safety of all who attend the event, and do not need any technological skills.


“HackBI has connected me and introduced me to so many people I might not have talked to before inside and outside the BI community,” said Padilla-Coo, one of the HackBI team leaders. “And for this I am truly grateful.”


Find out more


To learn more or register, go to hackbi.org.




© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019