Special Projects | 20-Dec-2016

No Dragging or Dropping at UTS Hackathon!

By Garth Chalmers, Vice-Principal

Noun informal

– an event in which a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming

Close to 30 of our Foundation girls (grades 7 and 8) came eager and raring to go first thing in the morning of December 12. Ahead of them: a hackathon – a.k.a. a full day of collaborative computer programming.  

The event was facilitated by Hackergal, a not-for-profit organization that “aims to introduce young girls across Canada to coding through the experience of a hackathon.” Recognizing that women are vastly underrepresented in the tech industry, Hackergal strives to inspire a “new wave of Canadian female coders to shake up the demographic and bring equality to the booming industry.”

During the UTS hackathon, seven teams worked through the entire school day, only rarely distracted by the snacks and pizza provided! Besides being given the GameSalad platform, and a theme – gravity, the girls received little in the way of formal guidance. Instead, they were left to work at their own pace and direct the process as they saw fit.  

As they scrambled to develop fun and engaging digital games, it was amazing to watch them interact with one another and with the visitors from Hackergal. Regardless of how the groups undertook the task, every student learned something about coding and game design, about asking the right questions of the right people, and equally – or even more importantly – the about effectiveness of collaboration. 

We were fortunate to have five judges join us at the end of the day. Dubie Cunningham ’89, Head of Innovation at Scotiabank; Katie Sokalsky ’05, CFO at Gold Money; Rahim Noormohamed ’09 from McKinsey Consulting; Amanda Morin ’17, eager computer science student; and Mike Farley, founder of ChangeGamer and popular UTS Canadian and World Studies teacher!  

The judges had a chance to play each newly-developed game (it’s a tough job but someone has to do it!) and then convened to award two prizes: Most Likely to Become a Unicorn (“unicorn” is a tech term for successful startup); and Most Likely to be Played in Mr. Farley’s Class.

The teams that were awarded prizes had developed great prototypes and were pleased to be acknowledged. Still, everyone recognized that the real prize had been the opportunity to join in. And that’s only barely concealed code for: it was a great experience!