On November 9 and 10, LogicGate hosted 70 students for an overnight hackathon as part of SRND CodeDay 2019. LogicGate employees welcomed the young coders into their corporate home and served as volunteer mentors and judges.
SRND, short for Student Research and Development, hosts CodeDay to inspire youth interest in coding and computer science, particularly among students from backgrounds underrepresented in STEM careers. Each event encourages creativity, teamwork, and fun as small groups of young people ages 12–25 solve coding challenges over the course of 24 hours. Participants include both novices and experts, and SRND reports that 80% of beginners continue to pursue computer programming after the event.
Students pitched ideas for apps or games they want to build, then spent the next 24 hours bringing their ideas to life. At the start of the event on Saturday morning, novices attended a beginner workshop before diving into their projects, while intermediate and advanced-level participants got to work right away.
All groups were paired with a dedicated LogicGate mentor who provided project feedback and guidance—as well as the occasional nudge to get groups thinking creatively.
Mentors challenged groups to use a specific programming language or technology during a dedicated lab period. For example, if a team wants to make a game with Unity, mentors might introduce a python framework instead. This portion of the event encouraged participants to learn a new technology or try out a novel approach, though each group is free to use whatever tools it likes once the lab period is over.
"The level of maturity demonstrated in many of the projects for this competition was impressive,” said Mark Lello, Software Engineer at LogicGate. “Seeing young people come together to ideate, design, and develop solutions which help impact society for better social good and awareness was something I was proud to see from Chicago's young tech community."
On top of group leadership duties, LogicGate’s employees ran workshops and offered skills coaching to help the students to round out their skill sets. In the Networking session, some of the older students learned about STEM career paths and professional etiquette. In the Project Management session, LogicGate mentors taught students how to set goals and achieve milestones.
The Winners Are…
At the conclusion of the event on Sunday, students shook off sleepiness and presented their final projects. LogicGate judges met each of the teams, tried out their projects, and ultimately declared a winner.
The “Best in Show” top prize was awarded to a group whose app automatically splits large files, and “Best Game” went to a group who coded a game to work on a scientific calculator. Other notable entrants included a message encryption service, a chat bot to help kids at risk of depression, and a social experiment designed to warn of the dangers of giving up passwords.
All participants came away from the event knowing something they didn’t know before. Including the mentors.
“I am learning a lot from these students,” said LogicGate Director of Customer Success Szuyin Leow. “I am not an expert in gaming or coding, so it’s exciting to ask questions and gain as much knowledge from them as I hope I’m providing.”To see examples of past projects, visit the project showcase at showcase.srnd.org. For more about CodeDays, visit https://www.srnd.org/.