In February, DHF youth member, Bella, approached our Youth Steering Committee with an idea to have a Youth Hackathon. The hackathon would be organized and hosted by the Youth Steering Committee and open to youth in the Baltimore area ages 12 to 18. The idea of the hackathon would be to create a space for youth the experience the environment of a hackathon alongside their peers.
Over the next seven months, the Youth Steering Committee split into groups to organize the hackathon – Harbor Hacks – a task that involved securing sponsors, creating a budget and ordering prizes, and recruitment of hackers, coaches, and judges.
All their planning came together the weekend of August 11th. Forty youth split into ten groups to begin work on a variety of hardware and software projects. We were excited to have a large representation of female participants (46%!!) and youth new to DHF (36%). Aside from their project work throughout the weekend, the youth also participated in soldering workshops with the SparkFun Weevil Eye Kits and programming workshops with Micro:bits, both items that each youth received as part of their swag bags.
The criteria for judging included difficulty and challenge, communication, functionality, presentation, and innovation in two categories: hardware and software. We had a talented group of judges including Ellie Mitchell (Maryland Out of School Time Network), Marty McGuire (web developer & Baltimore Maker), Jason Hardebeck (The Foundery), and Vakul More (Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Information Technology). Their job was definitely not an easy one!
All of the projects were great, but ultimately, the judges selected the winners: the winners of the HARDWARE prize were Jean Carlos Zayas and Kaire Williams for their creation of a BB8 robot and the winners of the SOFTWARE prize were Maya Gaylord, Miranda Hull, Carrie Couch, and Liza Molotska for their interactive scratch game, Samventures. The judges expressed being most impressed with the winners’ clear vision and intention to continue the efforts of their teams beyond the hackathon.
The youth in attendance at the hackathon also selected a HACKERS CHOICE winner – Dorian Smith and Ian Smith were selected for their creation of a website through which food suppliers and producers could donate surplus food items to people and organizations in need.
Although the youth produced creative and innovative projects, many participants surveyed at the end of the hackathon said that their favorite part of the weekend was meeting new people and working together as a team. When asked what youth would tell their peers about Harbor Hacks, one participant said:
Thank you, again, to our generous sponsors for Harbor Hacks 2017!