First Annual Code-a-Thon for CSEdWeek
Computer Science Education Week is quickly approaching, and this year we want to go a little beyond the classroom hour-of-code events (which we are still doing). My school has decided to host its first mini-hackathon, which we’re calling a code-a-thon! I have seen announcements for hackathons in my area before and the idea is always intriguing, but I’ve never actually attended one – so this is a big leap, hosting one without ever actually seeing what a hackathon is like. Our awesome media specialist and I are pulling it together and hoping to learn from the experience.
Here is what we have decided so far.
- We will have two categories: Beginner and Advanced. Beginners can be complete newcomers who have never coded before. Advanced coders have a semester of computer science or the equivalent.
- Teams will be 3-5 students.
- First thing in the morning, we’ll make introductions, set up norms, and reveal the theme. The theme will be very broad (the examples I use with students are “sports” or “space exploration”).
- Students will have 20 minutes or so to brainstorm what they would like to make.
- We will provide some technical mentors that can help students. Students will get a token or a flag they can turn in to receive a certain amount of time with a technical mentor. They should use it when they really need it!
- We’ll have breaks for snacks and drinks and movement.
- Students will get to present their projects to the judges for a short amount of time (3-5 minutes depending on number of teams).
- Judges will score projects in these categories: Problem Identification / Requirements, Usefulness of Solution, Creativity, Teamwork, and Technical Quality.
- Winners will receive prizes. Everyone will get food and publicity.
I teach a required sixth-grade tech class so I’m able to pump it up and give the code-a-thon some good publicity in class. I have also appeared on the morning announcements to advertise and give computer science trivia questions. I set up a table at lunch with some signs and sign-up forms.
The turnout was amazing! 116 kids signed up! 63 of them were girls! We are going to need to actually cut some kids from the code-a-thon… what a bummer, but what a great problem to have!
We’re excited to see how the event goes and what kinds of programs the students create. My vision is to create a culture at the school where computer programming is seen as a normal problem-solving tool used by everyone, and not a fringe activity for supersmart kids. I’m so, so encouraged by what I have seen with the code-a-thon signups. Really fun to see kids round up friends at the lunch tables and bring everyone over to register to spend a morning coding. I hope the event goes well, and I will definitely post updates as we get closer!