From Saturday February 7 to Sunday February 8, the company Hacker Fund hosted “HSHacks II” at PayPal headquarters in San Jose. The event was the second annual hackathon in the Silicon Valley that is only for high school students. Hackathons are events during which computer programmers and individuals involved in software development create teams and come together to create products such as applications for a variety of platforms, including web, mobile and Google Glass.
Approximately thirty Los Altos High school students attended; junior Selynna Sun managed the recruitment of students at the school. The event was free and open to all high schoolers and select middle schoolers.
Competing teams consisted of up to four students and were given twenty-four hours to build a virtual product from scratch. The majority of students stayed at PayPal the entire time and brought sleeping bags so they could sleep on the ground. The actual hacking began at 1 p.m. on Saturday, and submissions were due at 1 p.m. the next day.
At the end of the twenty four hour period, students were judged by experienced programmers and people from companies specifically geared towards hacking and computer science in general. Each team set up a table and presented their projects to judges.
A variety of awards were given out, and LAHS freshmen Dan Appel, Ryan Huang, Alex Wong and Justin Yu won the award for best first time hack for the website they created, Advent. This is a website that allows students to “explore the past with event based photo sharing.”
In addition to providing students with the opportunity to design a product, the hackathon featured a variety of different computer science related seminars that students could choose to attend if they had free time. These included app design seminars for Android and iPhone, website design seminars, a women in tech seminar and a virtual tech seminar, including a demo of a product called Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset for 3D gaming.
Overall, participants of this weekend’s hackathon found the event very rewarding.
“It was…enjoyable because I was able to meet people and do something I love for the entire weekend,” Selynna said. “It’s a very different experience from what you might expect from a conference-like event – it’s really loud throughout the night because people are working at 4 or 5 in the morning to try to finish their app, and it’s pretty cool to see everyone around you have the same passion as you do.”
The students’ award-winning website can be found here: http://danappelxx.github.io/index.html