Hacking Civic Code

Over 48 secondary school students from 10 different schools gathered at King’s College, Auckland on Saturday, 19 September for New Zealand’s first student organised hackathon, hackEdu. hackEdu was also the first junior civic hackathon of its kind in New Zealand. 

With the theme of social and civic responsibility, students were given the opportunity to show that coding could be used to change society for the better.

hackEdu was organised by Year 13 students from King’s College, which included William Shen, Menake Ratnayake, Frasier Cho, Peter Xu, Alexander Wilton-Reeves. Mr Dyer, Head of Computing at King’s College, also assisted tremendously with the organisation and running of the event.

“My main reason for putting this event together is to promote programming and give everyone the chance to code.” says founder William Shen. “Many schools aren’t fortunate enough to offer programming as a subject.”

The main goal of hackEdu is to nurture and promote the interest of programming and computer science to students in New Zealand. In a country where such skills are rather undeveloped and in great shortage, it is extremely important to expose students to programming. With this vision in mind, the King’s College students set out to gain sponsorship and mentors from an array of both local and international companies.

hackEdu was sponsored by King’s College, PB Technologies, Orion Health, Cyclone, Infinity, Fuji Xerox, St Pierre’s Sushi and Meadowbank Dental Clinic. Although from a variety of fields, these companies have strong visions to promote jobs in the IT industry. Moreover, there were over 15 mentors from organisations including Orion Health, Vend, Mozilla, Cyclone, Infinity and King’s College.

The hackathon kicked off with three tech talks from David White (University of Auckland), Dr Manoj Patel (Orion Health), and Dr Robert O’Callahan (Mozilla). Through these presentations, the students learnt about how programming and computer science is changing the very society we live in and the advantages of pursuing a career in IT.

The students then split up into their teams of three and into two sections: beginner programmers and advanced programmers. The beginner programmers attended either a Visual Basic or Python workshop, where they learnt basic control structures and how to solve problems with code. All teams took part in the Agile Workshops hosted by Orion Health, where they made paper planes under scrum situations. Although at first the students did not see how paper planes related to programming, they soon learnt the intricacies of the software development cycle in modern society through this Agile mindset.

The teams then completed their problem sets under strict time constraints. The beginner problem set consisted of two sections: one of programming where the students completed interesting programming challenges, and the other of project design where students created and presented a solution around the theme of social and civic responsibility. On the other hand, the advanced teams programmed and presented solutions to solve either Auckland’s congestion problems, or the issue of children going to schools hungry. Each team gave a presentation showcasing their solutions to the students and the judges.

Mr Dyer commented “It was a fantastic day with all students having a great time learning and developing their programming skills. Well done to the organising team for their dedication especially William Shen, who worked countless hours putting hackEdu together.”

All the participating students extremely enjoyed hackEdu. Magdalene Nakaroa from McAuley High School was “able to meet so many new people and learn so many new things” and commented how “The event itself was such an enjoyable experience.” All in all, hackEdu was a great success with all students walking away with new skills and knowledge.

The role of the sponsors, mentors, volunteers and committee members of hackEdu cannot be underestimated.

A special congratulations must also go to each of the teams. They all worked extremely hard and came up with creative solutions that the judges highly recommended.

Schools that Participated:

  • King’s College
  • Macleans College
  • McAuley High School
  • Edgewater College
  • Botany Downs Secondary College
  • ACG Strathallan
  • Kristin
  • Mount Roskill Grammar School
  • Howick College
  • St Mary’s College

Please visit http://www.hackedu.xyz/ for more information.