Coding and creativity: HackStoga holds first Hack-A-Thon

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By Shreya Vaidhyanathan, Co-Webmaster From programming under a Loss and Gain theme to a Super Smash Bros tournament, attendees of HackStoga’s event on Saturday, April 2 had the opportunity to learn and practice a new coding language. The clacks of computer keys and cheers at the final seconds made the event an interactive environment for...

By Shreya Vaidhyanathan, Co-Webmaster

From programming under a Loss and Gain theme to a Super Smash Bros tournament, attendees of HackStoga’s event on Saturday, April 2 had the opportunity to learn and practice a new coding language. The clacks of computer keys and cheers at the final seconds made the event an interactive environment for all parties involved: competitors, judges and novices. 

A Hack-A-Thon is a collaborative coding competition during which coders of all levels have the opportunity to submit a project and receive judging. The six-hour event, held in the atrium, allowed students to sign up individually or in teams of up to four people, also providing workshops and lessons for beginners. HackStoga president and senior Jeffrey Tan felt that “the stars aligned” this year, allowing the club to host their first Hack-A-Thon.

“In a place like a Hack-A-Thon, there’s literally an atrium full of other coders there to support you, and it’s an environment where that kind of creativity is being fostered,” Tan said. “It’s (for) a lot of people from a lot of places that speak your language.”

HackStoga board members  aimed for around 80 attendees and encouraged coders from nearby high schools to sign up. Board member and senior Sean Nissenbaum emailed computer science clubs at other schools to spread the word. This type of outreach posed some challenges for him, as it was difficult to garner interest without being able to speak to other students face-to-face.

“It (was) a bit of a struggle, quite honestly, because it’s so hard to find contacts at other schools,” Nissenbaum said. “Since the Hack-A-Thon is a full day commitment, (recruiting) kids from other schools without being able to actually talk to and excite them about it (was) difficult.”

Event sponsors Susquehanna International Group and Keystone Volvo helped with expenses such as prizes, food and shirts. In return, HackStoga thanked the companies in the opening speeches and sent someone to attend the event to look for possible talent. While some experienced coders attended the event, the board held beginner workshops to aid any novice coders. In reflecting on his experiences at other Hack-A-Thons, Tan finds the learning opportunity that comes with these social coding events to be essential.

“The biggest thing with coding is that you have to learn by doing, and you’re only going to do things if you have a passion for doing them,” Tan said. “It’s not that often that you get to see a coder who’s better than you actually code things.”

Club adviser and computer science teacher Ed Sharick, who has been teaching at Conestoga for seven years, is proud of the board for taking such a strong lead on this project. With four years of experience as the HackStoga adviser, Sharick is impressed by the effort and time this year’s board has put into planning the Hack-A-Thon, considering the importance of young minds having access to computer science events like these.

“The field of computer science is going to be dominating the job markets in the future,” Sharick said. “Understanding what’s happening when you’re running a program and having computer literacy is going to be really important.”


Shreya Vaidhyanathan can be reached at [email protected]

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