In today’s society, more and more opportunities are becoming available for careers in computer science. The demand for young talent in these fields is steadily growing as corporations become aware of the potential of the new generation. Fields such as cybersecurity, cloud computing, and Internet of Things rapidly expanding and present great career opportunities for those who specialize in those fields. Despite the growing need for able-minded technicians in these areas, public school systems are doing little to encourage or compensate.

Many students struggle in the areas of mathematics and science, and those that excel in those subjects are not often given ample room for growth. In addition, many schools do not offer many classes for engineering or technology, especially primary and secondary schools. The education industry is slowly starting to catch up, but it will be many years before well-developed curriculums centered around STEM are widely used. However, there are many other ways for young students to get involved with STEM.

Hackathons, sometimes called hacks for short, are a great way for anyone to build and learn new things. In a hackathon, teams of two to five people put their heads together to design and build a solution to a predefined real-world problem. Both inexperienced and experienced participants work together in a friendly, competitive environment to exercise all aspects of STEM. Usually, there are experienced mentors who have strong backgrounds in a STEM career to help refine the projects and provide positive criticism.

Anyone who participates is guaranteed to learn new things, and winning a hack looks great on a résumé. The winners of the competitions are also awarded with internship opportunities among other things. When I participated in my first hackathon, I worked with people I had not known previously to build a device designed to optimize waste management. I had no experience going in, however I was able to work with a team of some very talented entrepreneurs to combine our ideas, and we ended up winning 2nd place. iCodeHack 2017 is a great example of a hack which was created for elementary, middle and high school students.

No matter how much experience one has with STEM, participating in hackathons are a great way to broaden one’s horizons and acquire the skill set needed to work in a field of Computer Science.

Eric Krekeler
Lead Lab Mentor, iCode

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