TeenHacks LI to debut at The Coder School Syosset
Nearly a century ago, dance marathons were all the rage among young people. Fast forward to 2018 and technology sets the tone for an event like TeenHacks LI, which is Long Island’s premier and only active 24-hour hackathon.
Founded by students Wesley Pergament and Jeffrey Yu, for students, this upcoming event is going to be held on Sept. 29 and 30 at The Coder School Syosset. With registration having recently closed, the duo expects around 60 participants, although roughly 100 people applied and space limitations prevented all those applicants from being accepted.
Yu, a Roslyn High School senior, has been coding for the past three years and has participated in a number of hackathons. He wanted to bring that sense of excitement and tech camaraderie that he felt to Long Island.
“I’ve been involved in a lot of Hackathons. It’s been very important to me, because that’s where I got into computer science and coding. I don’t have that traditional background in coding, where you learn in class. The classroom setting for me hasn’t personally been very inspiring,” he said. “Hackathons create a really great space where you’re encouraged to intensively collaborate and build something in 24 or 36 hours. I’ve been to a lot of Hackathons and I haven’t seen as many 24-hour hackathons for high school students. I think the closest one is StuyJacks in the city and I kind of wanted to bring that environment to Long Island.”
Partner Pergament is no less dedicated. Despite only having been coding for a year, the Jericho High School junior’s passion was also stoked by his involvement in hackathons.
“When I discovered hackathons, it felt like a new world opened up. When people hear the conventional word ‘hacking’ they think about a virus or someone who is getting into their computer. When we hear the word ‘hack’ at our event, we immediately think ‘collaborative coding,’” he explained. “Hacking can be any project or creation that involves people coming together with their skills and computer science knowledge to create something amazing. At TeenHacks LI, not only will our students have the opportunity to meet with like-minded people, but we are also bringing together industry professionals for our students to learn from. We are so excited to be leading this process and building a hacker community here on Long Island, with an emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship.”
As for the TeenHacks LI event, participants will be greeted by a keynote speaker and then have the opportunity to form teams and start brainstorming. Once they find a problem to solve, they start on their project. While they may not necessarily know how to build the project, a large part of the process will involve brainstorming, team building and the quest to innovate. Various guests that will be appearing throughout the two days will be CEOs of local technology companies and local politicians coming out to speak about technology. Students will grab sleep where they can, but Yu expects to be up for the whole 24. All the hard work going into these projects will wind up getting judged by those established in the field, and the team with the best “hack” will receive prizes.
For Nisha Bhalla, senior advisor of host Syosset’s The Coder School, TeenHacks LI is the next logical extension for the business she and owner/general manager Noreen Kazi founded a year and a half ago.
“It’s totally exciting. One of the things that we’re still working on building here is that community feeling of what can you actually do with coding? What does it mean? Is it just a skill set a kid should learn that they can translate to other jobs or careers? Or is there something that can be done with it that can be more fruitful? I think what the hackathon does is show the community, and especially students from middle school to high school, that there is something more that can be done in terms of actually creating a product,” she said.
“You have folks here learning the basic fundamentals of code, but I think going from the basic fundamentals of code to making actual product is a huge leap,” she said. “For us, we’re specifically excited about the fact that we’re not only bringing together the local community together, but we have students coming in from New York City and all parts of Long Island. It’s also the first-ever team hackathon that’s been done on Long Island. For us, that’s really exciting. It sort of validates what we started with The Coder School Syosset.”