More than 200 elementary, middle and high school students across the Metroplex teamed up April 16th for the first ever iCodeHack at AT&T headquarters in Dallas. The hackathon, hosted by iCode4Kids, invited students to solve both STEAM-related and social challenges in a competition for high value awards like iPads, Mac Minis and cash prizes. iCode4Kids is the 501(c)(3) organization connected to iCode, the afterschool and weekend program that offers STEAM education to students in 1st through 12th grade.
“Most people have a negative connotation with the word ‘hackathon’ because they think students are breaking into something, but actually what they are doing is tackling problems in groups,” said iCode director Dr.Mauricio Vasquez. “We are excited to see so many students excited about coding, and hope to get even more on board next year.”
Students were grouped in sets of two to three to give them a chance to meet kids their age from other cities. After a brief introduction and overview of the challenges, they quickly got started collaborating and setting goals for the day ahead, eager to win but also just to have fun.
“Most people should know how to code at least a little bit,” said iCodeHack participant Lauren Cogbill. “A lot more people are learning to use a computer so they need to know how to code.”
Throughout iCodeHack, local industry leaders gave keynote presentations to the parents about taking ownership of your education or career, success in business and the importance of diversity in the workforce. Speakers included Abhi Ingle, AT&T’s senior vice president of distribution and channel marketing, Abid Abedi, founder and CEO of iCode, and SMU’s Dr. Tassu Shervani, professor at the Cox School of Business. Their goal was to both encourage and inform parents and students that STEAM-related careers and education are obtainable and can be extremely fun.
“We’re thankful to have so many parents who understand the value of STEAM and how it will impact their child’s growth and future career opportunities,” said Vasquez. “We believe in 10 years if you do not know how to code, it will almost be a form of illiteracy.”
Judges helped narrow down the projects to just three winners for each age group. The notable judges included Imtiaz Hussain, Cisco Certified Internet Expert, Jordan Pugh, former NFL player for the New Orleans Saints, Harris Razak, vice president at Ericsson and Shadman Zafar, an entrepreneur and distinguished business leader.
“We could not have pulled off this event without the help of our volunteers, judges and especially the sponsors of this year’s event,” said Dr. Vasquez. “We’re so grateful to AT&T for the use of their facility and helping make today a seamless and joyful one that these kids will not forget!”
Area companies and corporations partnered with iCode4Kids to support the hackathon through in-kind donations, publicity and funding. AT&T offered its facility, volunteers (courtesy of OASIS employee resource group) and parking accommodations. Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented, The University of Texas at Dallas, Fujitsu, Zimperium, PepsiCo Asian Network and Café X also sponsored the event.
iCode4Kids inspires students to change the world and have a prominent future by providing opportunities for computing and STEM education. Through events like iCodeHack, students are introduced and immersed in STEM and have the opportunity to earn scholarships toward iCode classes that will greatly impact their education and future careers in STEM. For more photos and an insider’s look from the first ever iCodeHack, check out #iCodeHack2016 on Twitter or Instagram.
iCode4Kids is a 501(c)(3) organization connected to iCode that believes the best way to change society and provide a better future for current generations is by raising awareness of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math from an early stage in a fun, enriching and collaborative environment. iCode4Kids inspires children to change the world and have a prominent future by creating opportunities to immerse themselves in computing and STEAM education through conferences, seminars and open forums. Initiatives include providing scholarships to underrepresented and minority children to access and embrace STEAM education. For more information, visitiCode4kids.org, or find us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/iCode4Kids) or Twitter (@iCode4Kids).