A New Passion for Learning: My First Hackathon Experience - Sabrina Chang

As I hid behind the safety of my laptop screen, which read “Hackathon Application,” I found my hands frozen on the keyboard, doubting that I was even qualified enough to attend a hackathon. I imagined myself sitting, and even competing, amongst college students who have devoted their entire education towards computer science while I remained a high school sophomore who had barely even scratched the surface. Without the encouragement from my older sister, who had gone to several hackathons before, I would have never even considered registering for a hackathon. Her words echoed through my mind as I stared at the application form,“Why wouldn’t you apply?” she asked. “Don’t worry about ‘why’ you’re doing something– you have to start asking yourself ‘why not?’” Feeling not qualified was certainly not a valid response, so I ultimately submitted an application and left myself still having no answer as to why I wouldn’t attend the hackathon.

Fast forward a few months, and I could not be more grateful for my first hackathon experience. Being in a room filled with students eager to learn more about the same fields as you is something that can not be experienced in a typical high school setting.

For my project, I worked with a friend and two other high school students that I met during the opening ceremony. We were able to build with hardware that the Major League Hacking team provided by borrowing their Arduino boards and Leap Motion kit. Our plan was to mimic the popular arcade game, Cyclone, by programming the lights to light up in a circular pattern and using the Leap Motion to detect the player’s hand gestures to stop. With the hackathon being 24 hours long, we stayed overnight at the college to continue developing our idea. If you want to see more about our project, you can check it out here: https://devpost.com/software/shooting-star-8vfr6x

After finally completing our project, we presented a demonstration in front of judges and other participants. It was eye-opening to see the creativity and hard work put in by everyone during the 24 hours we were together. Seeing everyone’s projects allowed me to understand that I am not restricted to only the limited resources provided at school, and allowed me to recognize the possibilities of technological advancement. We ended up winning “Funniest Hack” and each took home a new Polaroid camera. Although it was nothing big, it was definitely unexpected and exciting. I was not only able to take home a great experience, and of course, lots of stickers and swag, but I was able to develop a new passion for learning and gain new friendships.

If you are someone who is considering applying for a hackathon, I highly recommend it. Regardless of your experience level, hackathons can provide you with a place to learn and gain new opportunities. If you are interested, you can check out upcoming hackathons here: https://devpost.com/hackathons Next time you find yourself facing an internal battle concerning an opportunity, don’t ask yourself “why” you should do it, ask yourself, “why not?

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