Late nights, learning, and loving code
After a great SoHacks last year, we decided it was time to have a SoHacks 2. Our youth hackathon was endorsed by SA2020 as “Certified Awesome” because we’re helping move the needle on education and STEM in San Antonio by getting students excited about code!
Some students had been waiting all year for the second SoHacks, while others just heard about SoHacks for the first time. We had sign ups from students who had lots of experience to students who were learning how to code for the first time. To accommodate everyone’s coding abilities, we decided to cap the event so every student would receive the proper help they needed to complete a final hack. So as a team, we decided to hold SoHacks 2 on August 7th & 8th to see what potential students had and what hacks they would make.
This year, the SoHacks team decided to host SoHacks at Trinity University in the CSI Building (Center of Science and Innovation). We thought that having the hackathon at a college would interest students in technology, as well as show the hackers the computer science side of Trinity University. We started the hackathon off with registration at 1pm by getting everyone signed in with a SoHacks 2 t-shirt and name badge. As everyone was getting signed in, students, mentors, and volunteers walked around the CSI building looking at all our sponsor tables and receiving swag (stuff we all get) from the sponsors.
After everyone registered, The SoHacks team gathered everyone who was part of the hackathon to the Stieren Theatre where opening ceremonies took place. In the opening ceremony, we went over the schedule for the next 36 hours which included the schedule, rules, prizes, and a few words from our State Representative, Diego Bernal. He gave a talk on how he predicted the night would be. He said, he imagined seeing students working hard and “seeing Mountain Dew everywhere.” He explained to the audience that they are the future of the world and it’s up to them to determine how they want the world to be.
DAY 1 – 3:00 pm
Once the opening ceremony was over, we guided everyone back to the CSI Building. As students were trying to find the perfect space to hack, I saw “The Cube” (the area within the CSI building where most of the hacking would take place) start to fill up with lots of teams excited to start hacking. Once the hacking started, we offered many workshops to help students get on the right start to making a hack. We had workshops ranging from basic web development to making an IOS or Android app. Each workshop had about 30 spots and students would sign up online to reserve a spot. For some workshops, like the Green Foot workshop, the workshop filled up within seconds of us posting it on the website. After students completed a workshop they came out knowing more about a certain language of code. They also created a mini project within each workshop that they could choose to expand on for their final hack or they could start something new.
DAY 1 – 8:00 pm
As groups of students were still trying things out, they were also deciding on what they felt most comfortable to base their hack on. Some groups who had never coded before were considering making a website about a passion of theirs. Another group was considering making a game. Other groups that came in with more experience had an idea of what they were going to make, like implementing apps into pieces of hardware.
DAY 1, 11:30 pm
Later in the night, things started to mellow down and the true hardcore hacking started. During the night, students had lots of food to keep them motivated such as pizza, donuts, snacks, coffee, soda, and Red Bull. Then, in the middle of the night, Diego Bernal tweets SoHacks that he is coming to see what’s happening at the hackathon. Just as he expected, kids were working hard and there was Mountain Dew to keep them energized. Even though it was late, the students still had some energy keeping them awake because they had a passion for what they were creating.
DAY 2 – 7am
As more hours went by it started to become the start of a new day with tacos and coffee to keep everyone awake and hacking. Once everyone was back to their hacks, students started waking up motivated to finish their final hack. At 8am, we offered an emergency workshop for students who felt that they needed more help to finish their hack. The workshop in the morning was a basic web development class. Everyone who came out of that workshop ended up more confident with their final hack.
DAY 2 – NOON
As it approached noon, students were working as fast as they could to finish their hack and turn it in before the deadline. Once the submission of all hacks were in, students cleaned up their areas and headed back into the lobby of CSI to grab lunch. At 1:30 the public and judges had arrived to see what all these students had made within the 36 hour hackathon. We used the Cube to have presentations of hacks. When students presented, the public and judges went around and asked questions about students hacks.
After the presentation period was over, the judges tallied up their results and everyone headed back over to the Stieren Theatre for closing ceremonies. During closing ceremonies, the best hacks were awarded for different categories including best beginner hacks, most innovative, most creative, and most technical. At the end of the hackathon, the SoHacks team was impressed of what students could achieve within a 36 hour period. We hope to see returning students and new students in our next hackathon. Who knows maybe the hack they make might become the best new app, website, or piece of hardware!