Local students design and program apps for ‘Hackathon’ – Monterey Herald

SEASIDE – Laughing college students munching on bagels and fruit bowls at tables labeled “Fuzzy Bunnies,” “Cat Lovers” and “Cocoa Puffs,” while discussing what “glow up” means, certainly don’t look alike to your average coding competition.

But that’s exactly what the fifth annual “Hackathon” at Seaside High School looked like this week. The event tasked teams of middle school and high school students from the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District to design and create their own app in keeping with this year’s theme, “Glow Up”.

Approximately 18 four-student teams from Los Arboles Middle School, Walter Colton Middle School, Seaside Middle School, Monterey High School and Seaside High School have registered to participate in the one-day event. Seaside High alumni and former Hackathon participants served as mentors to help students design and program their apps.

The students used the App Lab program through Code.org which allows students to code JavaScript in two different modes. They can use block programming, basically a drag-and-drop method, or text programming to enter lines of code. Many of the Hackathon attendees had very little or no programming experience. App Lab therefore offers students a simple and easy way to create an application.

The 5th annual “Hackathon” was held Wednesday at Seaside High School. The event tasked middle and high school students from MPUSD to design and create their own online app with the theme “Glow up”. (Molly Gibbs—Monterey Herald)

Tessa Brown, Deputy Principal of Seaside High School, has been instrumental in expanding and improving Seaside High’s computer science curriculum. A former maths and computer science teacher, she said the idea for the Hackathon started about six or seven years ago.

“We had a new computer science program and we wanted to engage students in computer science and programming. And we wanted to connect students at all levels,” Brown explained. “The idea is that the earlier we can engage students in computing, the more likely they are to pursue a career in computing.”

According to a study by Code.org, only half (51%) of all high schools offer computer science courses.

The students used the “App Lab” program through Code.org to program their applications in JavaScript through two different methods. They can use block programming, basically a drag-and-drop method, or text programming to enter lines of code. (Molly Gibbs—Monterey Herald)

Computer science is a required class at Seaside High. Jeremy Shaw, a computer science teacher at the school, said it can be difficult to get students interested in the subject, but the ability to be creative in designing and programming projects excites students.

Shaw’s class introduced freshman Alejandro Juarez to coding and inspired him to get into computer science.

“It just opened my eyes. I was really interested,” he said. “At first I thought it would be a boring computer class, but it turned out to be really fun to play with things. It was a really fun experience doing it and you learn a lot.

While some attendees had previous computer science and programming experience, the Hackathon was an introduction to coding for many students. Faculty and staff knew this could be an intimidating obstacle that could scare off interested students.

“We could probably stretch that out a lot, but you get impostor syndrome where you think you’re not good enough,” explained Seaside High computer science teacher Pat Murphy. “But everyone is good enough to do it. Once they are here, they discover that everyone contributes and intervenes and has a role to play. »

Yannan Cai, a junior at Monterey High School, was familiar with this anxiety. She had no previous coding experience and had never attended a hackathon before, but signed up because she wanted to eventually pursue it.

Students from the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District worked in teams of four to design and create an app that fit the theme, “shine.” (Molly Gibbs—Monterey Herald)

“It’s quite funny actually,” Cai smiled. “I thought it would be really scary and intimidating at first, but it’s actually a really welcoming environment.”

At the end of the event, each team presented their application to a jury within the IT and Hackathon community. Judges awarded prizes to teams for “Most Innovative Use”, “Most Downloadable”, and “Exemplary Use of Theme”. While only a few teams received prizes, each student received a certificate of participation.

Debra Gramespacher judged each Hackathon. A software engineer at Northrop Grumman Corp., Gramespacher worked with Brown to bring computing to the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District.

“I would like to think that as an IT professional I was able to encourage girls to believe in themselves that they can succeed in a very competitive and not very easy, but certainly rewarding career,” Gramespacher said. . .

Earlier this year, Seaside High was named one of 760 schools nationwide to win the College Board’s AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award for expanding young women’s access to AP computing principles. A Code.org study found that women who try AP Computer Science in high school are 10 times more likely to major in that field, and black and Latino students are seven times more likely.

“The more enjoyable and fun we can make science, math and computers, the more students will engage,” Gramespacher said. “They will believe in themselves. They will believe that they can succeed.

Ryan H. Bowman