Shen, Sun, Wang Lead Second Annual hackNEHS

Students from across New England gathered to participate in Hack New England High Schools (hackNEHS) in Burlington, Mass. last Saturday. HackNEHS, organized by Jocelyn Shen ’18, Kevin Sun ’18, and Andrew Wang ’18, gave students the opportunity to work collaboratively on projects related to technology and computer science.

A hackathon is an event where teams collaboratively create projects to transform their ideas into actual products. These ideas can turn into a wide range of products, including apps, games, webpages, and robots. 

Christina Li ’21, an attendee of the event, said, “I don’t have much experience coding, so [hackNEHS] was a really great learning experience. I went to a Javascript workshop and learned how to use HTML and CSS.”

Hosted by Microsoft at their office in Burlington, Mass., hackNEHS lasted for over 12 hours, providing students of all levels with a chance to learn about various aspects of computer science. According to Shen, groups of all ages and levels of experience attended.

“Some teams who already have a lot of experience get straight to coding a project. A lot of times their ideas are entrepreneurial, business related, and in the future, they could actually bring them to the market,” said Sun.

“A lot of the projects are just fun things like small games. For example, we had a virtual reality ping pong game and a messaging app,” continued Sun.

Prizes were awarded to teams who created the best hacks. Shen said hacks were judged on the criteria of interface, creativity, and “overall awesomeness.”

An Andover team comprised of Darcy Meyer ’18, Miles McCain ’19, Alex Reichenbach ’18, Ihor Barakaiev ’20, and Nicholas Miklaucic ’19, won first place. Their hack was called RAQ, which stands for Research, Aggregation, and Quantification. Using natural language processing, RAQ sifts through online articles to find information and coverage on a topic and reports the media’s sentiment towards this topic.

Last year, Sun and Wang started the hackathon in order to give high school students a greater chance to dive into coding and more opportunities to participate in workshops.

“We actually got started after Andrew and I went to a college hackathon together. We had just come back to our dorm room, and Andrew suggested starting a hackathon ourselves,” said Sun.

Wang said, “High schoolers don’t really have opportunities to… explore computer science and technology at a deep level or to really make products at such a young age because it’s usually limited to college or even beyond.”

Sun added, “We really wanted to get a lot of young kids. For them, it was mostly about educating them about computer science. We had workshops in Processing, Javascript, Java, and Github. For them, it was a place of learning new skills.”

Shen, Sun, and Wang are looking to expand hackNEHS to a wider network of institutions.

“We’re thinking of expanding to potentially even more institutions for organizational teams in the future just because it will allow us to reach across a broader community of schools,” said Wang.

Shen said, “We want students to learn something new, which is why we have workshops running on various computer science topics. Ultimately, hackNEHS gives people the opportunity to develop something.”