Lincoln School and Sophia Academy cohosted the first all-girls hackathon in Rhode Island, Girls Hack the World, to provide an inspiring space for hands-on coding, problem solving and collaboration. This event encouraged girls and young women to pursue an interest in computer science and tech fields, a necessary step to rectify the gender imbalance in STEAM professions.
On Saturday, April 22, Earth Day, an enthusiastic group of 75 students in Grades 5–10 from both Sophia Academy and Lincoln School worked together to build and code apps and games designed to create real-world solutions to help Rhode Island's environment.
Girls Hack the World kicked off on Thursday, April 20, with two keynote speakers. Roopa Parekh, New England market vice president of Konica Minolta, a sponsor of Girls Hack the World, shared life-changing experiences while attending school in Nepal. Parekh encouraged participants to make themselves uncomfortable and to fully participate. Theresa Moore, the founder and president of T-Time Productions, an organization that creates digital apps which reflect the country's changing demographics, took the girls through an app creation with tips and information about the obstacles she has overcome.
On Saturday, the day started with keynote speaker Sophie Houser, a Brown University sophomore who is exploring the intersection of art, activism, and technology. Her message was about the importance trying new things and enjoying failure. She is a graduate of Girls Who Code, co-creator of the viral app Tampon Run, and co-author of the recently released Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting it Done. Each participant received a signed copy of the book.
"There are lots of barriers that the outside world imposes on you, but don't let your inner personal barriers — fears you won't succeed, that you're not smart enough or good enough — get in your way. If you put yourself down or don't believe in yourself... then you won't get anywhere. But if you pursue your goals, even in small ways, you'd be surprised about what you're capable of doing," said Houser.
Houser was introduced by Kimani Perry, senior at Lincoln and graduate of Sophia Academy. "Sophia Academy taught me how to stand up for what I believe in, to be loud and be strong. It made me who I am today. Lincoln taught me to never back down, that women can do just about anything, and that our brains, not our bodies, are our strongest quality," said Perry. "We are so happy to welcome Sophie Houser, who found a way to channel her voice and show that women have the ability to dominate in any field, that woman can build and change the world. She, and all of us today, are making the slogan 'The Future is Female' a reality."
During the hackathon, participants were divided into teams of two to four students from both schools who worked with a mentor. The role of the mentor was to help the team organize the design process, guide them to use the code.org platform, encourage them to step out of their comfort zone and take risks to create a true hack.
Half way through the day participants had to the opportunity to visit three demonstrations related to coding and technology. The hackathon's lead sponsor, Microsoft, set up two rooms, one with Surface Pro devices for exploration and the other highlighted their Paint 3D and Remix 3D software. Lincoln's Upper School robotics team did a demonstration and Sophie Houser signed copies of her book.
"There was such a buzz in the room and so much creativity going around. Whether they came in with little coding experience or a lot of experience, they left with accomplished problem solving skills that will last a lifetime," said Susan Amsler-Akacem, head of Lincoln's Ed. Tech department and technology innovator.
Apps created at Girls Hack the World covered a variety of topics all related to Earth Day:
- Compost Crunch: This app has three bins: compost, recycling and trash. Objects come falling from the sky and the goal is to drag them into the right bin
- Turtle Chaos: The goal of this game is to guide a sea turtle to the ocean through an obstacle course of litter. Help her find her way home!
- Plant Some Trees: Plant some trees and clear the clouds! Each time you click the screen, a tree will be planted and the earth will be better off.
One of the participants stated "The hackathon was a great experience that made me aware of my capabilities and how I can make my mark in society," said a student participant. "It was hard and we didn't get what we imagined. But we did get something better!"
Girls Hack the World sponsors and donors for the event included: Microsoft, Konica Minolta, Cox Communications, Dassault Systemes, Ximedica, Center for Women and Enterprise, and Girls Who Code. A special thanks to Citizens Bank who provided nine mentors for the event.
Thank you to the mentors: John Bennett, Rodrigo Fonseca, Portia Gaitskell, Purvi Goel, Adilson Graca, Geoff Gunter, Sophie Houser, Jane Mahan, Cindy Miranda, Guianeya Murillo, Itohan Osayimwese, Jennifer Potter, Lena Rensha, Sheila Rodgers, David Sisson, Aimee Terravechia, Padmaja Vaidyanathan, UmaShankari Venkataramanujam, Alejandra Y. Villarreal, David Sisson, Esmie Jose, Kimani Perry, Mathew Mathew.
Thank you to our volunteers and the Girls Hack the World committee: Adebisi Adelakun, Yasmine Akacem, Kerry Bergin, Dawn Clifton, Maya Clifton, Caroline Cromwell, Leann Heath, Diane Holden, Joanne Johnson, Maddalena Ledezma, Susan Reenan, Susan Amlser-Akacem, Liz Buddington, Gigi DiBello, Suzanne Fogarty, Jon Gabriel, Molly Garrison, Meg Governo, Betsy Hunt, Ashley Rappa, Liz Rich, Heather Swift.