This past weekend, the Level Playing Field Institute and the Kapor Center hosted a hackathon to expose underrepresented groups to tech and coding.
This past weekend, the Level Playing Field Institute and the Kapor Center hosted a hackathon for middle and high school students. The purpose of the hackathon was to expose underrepresented groups to tech and coding. At the same time, it gave students the opportunity to create working solutions for problems they see in school and education.
The hackathon was at Morehouse and went from Saturday to Sunday. The students were divided into 20 teams, with 2 adult mentors to help guide the teams. Each team brainstormed the problems they saw and crafted their own solutions.
The students worked throughout Saturday to bring their ideas to life. They went from brainstorming to full ideation with market research and customer discovery.
Sunday was for building the apps, creating the presentations, and pitching their ideas. There were 2 pitch rounds. For the first round, each team presented their app to a panel of judges. Six teams were selected to move on to the final round and pitch in the closing ceremonies.
The second-place team was awarded $150 in scholarship for each of the team members. The first-place team won $500 in scholarship for each student. Even though only 2 teams won a monetary prize, it was clear that the hackathon meant a lot for all the students involved.
This was the first hackathon for many of the students. Some had existing tech knowledge and experience. For others, this was their first time creating technology. For many of the students, this was their first time creating an app and creating a business.
For students with passions that are less tech-focused, the hackathon still had a lot to offer. The teams had to identify and research competitors. They had to do customer discovery. They had to adjust their models after hearing feedback from their potential market.
The major purpose of this hackathon was to help level the coding playing field. Approximately 80% of tech positions at major US tech companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google are held by men. The racial breakdowns of tech positions at these companies show that about 50% of positions are held by white individuals, 39% by Asians, 7% by Hispanics, and 4% black.
Venture funding statistics for startups is even bleaker. Only 3% of funding goes to startups with a female CEO. Approximately 87% of funding goes startups with white founders.
At Atlanta’s Level the Coding Field hackathon, there were a number of young women in attendance although most of the participants were young men. The hackathon was geared towards introducing young black and brown students to technology.
It was inspiring to see these young students’ eager responses to technology and getting a deeper look. The Level Playing Field Institute is working to give young black and brown students across the country a firm foundation to grow their interests in tech and entrepreneurship.
Everyone was engaged. The students used technology to create wireframes and demos for their apps. In this hackathon, even students new to creating technology were able to play around and explore.
The Level the Coding Field hackathon does more than simply expose these students to technology. It teaches them the foundation of creating a business.
They have to brainstorm. They know the value in coming together with someone else and bouncing ideas off one another to find one that sticks.
They have to work as a team to poke holes in and strengthen their ideas. Your base idea is only a starting point and these kids had the opportunity to flesh out their ideas into something workable.
They had to do customer discovery. Every entrepreneur knows the value in getting out there and speaking with your market. These students created their questions and went out interviewing other teams and people on campus. The teams used that feedback to improve their apps.
The teams also had to create a final pitch. While they were pitching for scholarship money, they had to create compelling investment pitches. The first round of pitches were on a individual, team basis. Each team presented in front of panel of judges, with the top 6 teams presenting in the final ceremonies. Most of the teams did not make it to the final round, but they now have the experience of pitching their company to a select panel.
Level the Coding Field introduced these kids to technology and creating their own businesses. Technology is constantly being innovated and these young innovators are the future.
Not everyone may go on to start their own company, but they now understand and have experience with key points of that process.
Not everyone may go on to a specifically tech-focused career, but they have experience creating an app or website. Technology runs our world, so having that experience gives them a leg-up no matter what they decide to do as they get older and join the job market.
Overall, the hackathon was an amazing success. The kids had an amazing time and the two winning teams went home with scholarship money. It will be great to see how the Level the Coding Field hackathon grows in the future.