Students Hack Into STEM Fields At Millburn High School

By J. L. Shively

For some, the fields of STEM activities may seem difficult to hack but the students who attended this year’s Hackathon, HackMHS II, found that anyone can enjoy and create in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Ryan Sullivan, a senior at Millburn High School and a lead organizer for the HackMHS II event, explains that a Hackathon can be described as an “invention marathon” where students can learn from experts while also building and sharing their own work.

“The Hackathon was a great event where our students demonstrated their organization, creativity and leadership,” says Millburn High School Principal William Miron.

The first HackMHS was held last October but the event held this month was conducted with a larger budget and with more sponsors.

“As a result, we were able to provide all of our hackers with full meals, snacks, drinks and high quality prizes for especially impressive projects,” Sullivan explains.

The necessity for meals and snacks arises from the fact that the Hackathon event is a 24 hour, activity packed event taking place at the school with students from Millburn as well as the surrounding areas.

“Participants came from all over, one even from Canada,” states Miron.

Most of the 100 participants were from Millburn and the surrounding area but, Sullivan states, “we had many students and mentors from out of state.”

The 24 hour event is filled with activities ranging from guest speakers to a Super Smash Bros. Melee tournament.

The main event of the evening was the opportunity for students to try new technology and create projects from their new skills.  At the close of the event students were able to showcase their newest technology creations in front of a panel of judges.

Throughout the night workshops were offered to learn about major players in the technology industry such as Github, Javascript and iOS.  Other fun activities for the evening included karaoke, cup stacking and another video game tournament for the game Hearthstone.

Workshops about entrepreneurship and programming interviews were also offered for students looking to break into the business aspect of STEM careers.

“A stellar keynote speaker in the auditorium started the event off,” says Miron, referring to Stephen Yang, a student at the University of Waterloo studying computer science.

Also, Major League Hacking, a company created for promoting and supporting Hackathons and also a two year sponsor of Millburn’s event, sent a representative to conduct the closing ceremony where students “demonstrated their projects to the rest of the participants,” explains Sullivan.

HackMHS II was planned entirely by the student body whose interest in STEM fields has led them to sharing their passion with others and attending other Hackathon events intended for college students.

“I am proud of our students’ initiative, planning and resolve to host the event,” states Miron.

Overall, Sullivan explains, “Hackathons are a great way for students to become involved in science.  STEM fields always seem so daunting at first with their heavy focus on math, but Hackathons prove that even someone with no computer science or engineering experience can learn to create something amazing in just 24 hours.”

Although no date is set, the students are already coordinating who will organize the next Hackathon and Sullivan promises, “there will almost certainly be a HackMHS III.”

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