Duo bringing hackathon to Pine-Richland
Pine-Richland High School students Arjan Guglani and Justin Waltrip are already app designers who’ve participated in tech events across the region, and now they’re bringing a “hackathon” to their own school.
The two whiz kids are hosting the school’s first Hack-the-Ram Hackathon in which students in grades seven through 12 will be able to come to learn about coding and computer programming while creating technical projects of their own.
“It’s not hacking in the traditional sense, so we’re not breaking into anything; we’re not doing anything illegal,” said Guglani, a senior. “The spirit of hacking is that you’re putting together something out of nothing. You go in and come out with something you put time into and worked hard to ‘hack’ something cool together.”
Guglani, a senior, and Waltrip, a junior, developed a travel app called “Travel Time.” They have attended other hackathons in the past to nurture their interest in STEM projects — science, technology, engineering and math — and wanted to bring something similar to Pine-Richland. In July they started the process of working with the school and finding sponsors to host an event. Also included amongst the core group of five student organizers are Dewey Bokil (head of marketing), Lauren Juncal (head of finances) and Daniel Krill (head of volunteer services).
During the course of the day, students in grades seven through 12 will have the opportunity to attend seminars and work in teams with other students to “hack” together their own project.
With just 10 hours to design and create a working project, things can get a bit frantic, Waltrip said, and that’s part of the fun.
“Definitely a big aspect of this is also collaboration and just being able to put something together in a short period of time,” said Waltrip, who attended a hackathon in Canada last year. “To put an actual project together in 10 hours and figuring out different shortcuts you can take and trying to take all the different work from everyone and bring it all together is something I think a lot of people have never done before.”
The hackathon will focus on building software from scratch, Guglani said, and the theme is education. They do have a list of different ideas that students could work on, such as building a tool to help people memorize the periodic table or one to help students with reading disabilities, but participants could also work on programming a robot to move or read text, building a website, creating a game or something else entirely.
“Whatever our participants want, our job is to mentor them and give them the resources to make it possible,” Guglani said.
The list of mentors and judges who will be present to assist students include professors from Pitt and CMU as well as Pine-Richland teachers, Guglani said, and participants don’t have to have any experience in coding or programming in order to attend.
They will also offer seminars throughout the day, including one that will teach participants to program a robot, one called Zero to App in which participants will design an app in just one hour, and one introducing machine learning.
Prizes will be awarded at the end of the day for the most creative, funniest or otherwise standout projects, and food and snacks will be provided throughout the day.
Waltrip plans to keep this going again next year and hopefully in the years to come.
“Arjan is a senior but I’m a junior so I’ll be able to lead this next year and hopefully I can get some other underclassmen or juniors next year and get them involved,” he said. “Then they can do the same.”
Karen Price is a