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How would you do at a coding hack-a-thon?

 

11-year-old Tyler was walking home from school one day when he received a text message from his parents saying that he got invited to code at Google. “As I found that out I started freaking out and jumping up and down,” said Tyler, barely containing his excitement. He is referring to the Coding All-Stars hack-a-thon which was held at Google Canada headquarters in Toronto on Friday, June 24. The event was organized by Hatch Canada, a coding after school program for kids, which had handpicked 60 of their brightest coders from over 700 Hatch Canada students.
 

Kids waiting to be divided into development teams.

Kids coding to resolve Toronto problems at Coding All-Stars (CNW Group/Hatch Canada)

The lucky students whose ages range from 7-17, were from across the greater Toronto area and were divided into teams of 5-6 members and paired with a Google Canada and Hatch Canada mentor. Their objective was to work together to build something cool while tackling real-life local issues, such as:

  • Racoon Nation: how to prevent raccoons from getting into Toronto’s garbage

  • Cottage Life: how to tackle mosquitoes and bears at the cottage

  • Public transportation: how to improve Toronto’s transportation

  • Toronto Transit Commision Apps: Create an app that would assist Toronto transit commuters
     

Kids working on computers at a hack-a-thon.

Each group is paired with a mentor from Hatch and Google Canada.

“Basically you’re making your own game. You don’t get a prize, but you get to say that you won a programming competition which is pretty cool,” Tyler explained.

In this case, though, there was a prize -  a giant trophy and bragging rights, of course!

Once the theme was selected the group assigned roles to each other (no one wants work to be done twice!), then they began to plan out the game play (think levels, points and character design!) before jumping on to design and development. But here’s the catch - all projects had to be completed in five hours. At the end of the day, the final presentations took place and the judges awarded a winner.
 

Girls working on computers.

Sisters Mabel and Sage discuss why coding is cool.

“It’s fun to see your projects come to life,” said Mabel, “you can do pretty much anything with it.”

There’s a lot of lessons to learn at hack-a-thons along the way. 8-year-old Jackson, a first timer hacker said, “I learned that I could be better at coding.” Signing up to these events really tests and develops problem-solving skills: unexpected things occur and participants need to think on their feet and be ready for anything - including jumping in and helping out. 9-year-old Julius who thought that communication was important, offered up this tip for any novice developers, “you need to be good at working together at a hackathon.”

When asked about why coding is cool, Tyler was best to sum it up, “I like coding because it gives me a chance to make the world a better place for so many different people.”
 

Over the shoulder glimpse at a computer screen.


Congratulations to the Coding All Stars Summer Edition winning team, Cupcake Kids: Julius, Julia, Joshua, Evelyn, Andrew, and Charlie. Check out their “Whack-A-Mosquito” game over at Hatch and maybe sign up for some cool coding classes.