Young Rewired State NYC was a youth hackathon that was put on by Young Rewired State (YRS). YRS has previously put on events in the UK, and their first ever event in the US happened this summer!
This event was a two day hackathon at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. Youth coders under the age of 18 came from 10am-7pm each day and coded up apps, websites and more using open NYC government data. Mentors over the age of 18 helped the hackers with any questions they had, and could give advice about design, programming, presentations, etc. After the two day event, each group presented their project, and the top project winners were sent to the UK for the Festival of Code at the end of the summer.
I was a mentor for the hackathon, so I tried to provide coders with help and guidance when they asked for it. I mostly spent my time with the beginner teams, because I felt I was able to help with their questions and they were the ones that needed assistance a bit more.
I think that the event should have been a little bit different. I think that for the more experienced programmers, the event was great and they were able to create full functioning apps and present them professionally. I think that for the newcomers and novice programmers, the event was not a good fit.
A lot of the kids that I worked with were stressed and unsure of what to do since they had not programmed before. I think that the event should have either focused on only coders with experience, or new comers, and change the way that they were learning.
I think that the first thing I would change would be to have the teams consist of coders of different levels. The teams at this event were split up into skill levels, so beginners were working with beginners and experienced were working with experienced.
It would have been nice to see the new coders learning from the experienced ones, and to see the experienced coders work to be able to explain concepts easily enough for the other coders to understand. I think that a huge part of these events is the peer teaching and learning, and I wish that there was more of that at YRS.
As I mentioned before, I would adjust the purpose of the event. Is it to create full functioning apps? Then have a code prerequisite. If it is to create an idea and a prototype, then it makes more sense to allow all different skill levels. I think it was a bit unfair to have some kids who only knew a bit of HTML competing with kids who know Java. It doesn't put them on the same playing field, and I felt that the new coders didn't really have a chance at winning the prize.