Hackathon? What's A Hackathon?
A hackathon is a social event where people interested in computer programming, software development, and computer science gather to create or improve upon software programs.
At Random Hacks of Kindness, Jr., we engage young people in hackathon events using their growing skills in computer programming and computer science. Our events encourage children to solve real-world problems and use their skills to do good in their community as they mature into adulthood.
Why A Hackathon Is Beneficial
Random Hacks of Kindness, Jr. provides young people a multi-dimensional learning experience. It includes exposure to both hard skills – using computer coding as a tool, not a class — and the soft skills of working with peers, collaborating as a team, creative thinking, and communicating a vision. In a relaxed, stress-free and safe environment, where no prior coding experience is necessary, students of all backgrounds have a chance to get outside of themselves and be exposed to the inner workings of the world of computer science.
During the self-contained day-long events, which are currently held in various locations throughout Connecticut, they are immersed in the scientific process and a journey of group discovery. While their output is just a prototype and not a final product, they have fun and feel good about doing something meaningful for an important reason.
A Hackathon At Random Hacks of Kindness, Jr.
The children, guided by Computer Science mentors, actively participate with representatives from the nonprofit in the entire application development cycle. They will:
- Agree on a specific issue to be addressed
- Gather information
- Design, prototype, and code a smart phone app design with MIT App Inventor software
- Present their work in a display poster and provide a demonstration of the app
In this process, they learn:
- What the nonprofits do for the population they serve
- Apply technology to find solutions
- Collaboratively brainstorm and plan
- See results in the form of a prototype in a short period of time.
All the while, they make new friends, build self-confidence, and get inspired for career opportunities. Of course, breaks for meals and snacks are part of the day. The kids leave with a great sense of accomplishment as well as a souvenir t-shirt. Here’s a look at what to expect from our hackathons.
As you can see, it takes a lot of effort on our end to do what we do. Especially, for as many teachers and children that we work with. You can get involved and support us here.
Identify a Problem
Research a Solution
Design a Prototype
See Tangible Results
Technology We Use: MIT App Inventor
The MIT App Inventor, a coding tool, was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to teach students the fundamentals of computer science and coding while connecting with their high interest in social media and the creation and use of apps. Used by millions of people to create both prototype and finished apps, it is highly effective in introducing important, real-world concepts and skills in programming and design. Students learn the basics of app design, as well as the ideation and brainstorming process required to build a successful prototype mobile application.
This program requires NO PRIOR CODING KNOWLEDGE and is intended as a code-to-learn tool!
Since our formal incorporation as a 501(c)3 in 2015, RHoK, Jr. has held close to 40 hackathons, supported 300 nonprofit and charity organizations, and trained 300 high school and college students or computer science professionals to serve as mentors. Most importantly, we have enlightened more than 1,000 young people, of which 20% have participated more than once (71% are girls)!
Our internal research shows the kids rate their satisfaction highly. After participating in RHoK, Jr. students reported higher levels of interest in Computer Science and Programming. Girls report significantly higher levels of interest overall and the number of girls reporting the highest level of interest increased 41 percentage points. Boys also reported higher levels of interest overall, with the number of boys reporting the highest level of interest increased 40 percentage points.
Patrice Gans Founder, Executive Director
Patrice founded Random Hacks of Kindness, Jr. in 2014 after she attended a Random Hacks of Kindness event and realized the opportunity it presented to fill the void in teaching coding and computer science in the younger grades. She brings expertise in both STEM education and community engagement.
Prior to launching RHoK Jr, Ms. Gans taught computer science at Fraser Woods Montessori School in Newtown, CT. She has served on the board directors of the Computer Science Teachers Association as their national K-8 representative and written extensively about her experiences teaching computer science at the elementary and middle school levels. She has been a member of Representative Elizabeth Esty’s STEM Advisory board since 2017. Ms. Gans is passionate about exposing students to coding and computer science concepts as early as possible and has taught age-appropriate computational skills using Robotics, Scratch, and App Inventor.
VP, Director of Information Systems at FactSet
Trishan De Landerolle
Program Manager for the Dronecode Foundation