Today We Started our Student Hackathon

I’ve never hosted or planned a hackathon before this one. At the same token, our kids have never done one.

Yet and still, we jumped into this space of uncertainty with minimal expectations beyond inspiring our students to design and build what they felt could have impact on their learning community.

The ideas that they had were a mixture of inspiring, empathetic and often ambitious in scope. There was frustration and joy, smiles and boredom…a few water bottle throwing challenges and learning…especially since “kids are gonna kid” and imperfection is a part of the process.

Our teams consisted of 3-4 middle school students with at least one high school student. Each team is equipped with nothing more to start than a monitor, adaptor, raspberry pi, Windows IoT core kit, mouse and keyboard.

This brings me to my first mistake as this setup proved to be quite challenging because while trying to stay true to “hacking” with windows IoT core, I completely missed the most important part of what we should be doing for students…choice. In hindsight, we should have modeled what’s involved with both raspian and Windows IoT setups and allowed choice in that from the start.

This was a small error in the big scheme of things and while not making this mistake would have definitely meant that more students would have been much more advanced in developing, all students are exactly where we thought they would be after day 1. There is a working idea…one that came to be after many iterations of an original idea.


  1. Our robotics coach, Robyn Segrest, is basically an angel in human form. She walks with love for her kids and they feel the same. You can just tell. Since learning that we were having a hackathon, I don’t know who has been more excited…me or her. Even more, watching her step into the role of “Game Master” today was so beautifully poetic that one would have thought that she hosted hacking events weekly. She doesn’t. It was her first time too.
  2. We could not have pulled this off without our media teacher Mike McHaney. He rounded his own troops to work along side Microsoft’s marketing team to get first hand experience filming segments for our mini documentary, which will be shared in a matter of weeks. These students will be credited for their work on this film but even beyond that, the twinkle in each of their eyes speaks volumes about what this experience means. The coolest part though, is seeing this same twinkle in their teacher.
  3. I have an amazing executive assistant, who spent the entire weekend planning meals because that’s what you do when your boss hasn’t finalized that part. With money that I had from unused funds, she made it work in the same ways that my mom did when I was growing up…except this is “making it work” for about 60. I’m still amazed at her. Thank you Discovery Ed for coming through and sponsoring lunch one day this week. Tomorrow is being sponsored by a local restaurant…a taco spread and the super hungry kids will be pleased. We still have one day uncovered, so if you know someone who knows someone…hit me up! 🙂
  4.  Never underestimate the ideas that kids will have when you empower them to solve actual problems. One team’s probable build is to help them communicate with a certain group of students who rarely have student to student interaction, hearing impaired students. Their passion for wanting to “communicate without boundaries” was the stuff that made for tv movies are made of…but way more awesome.
  5. The level of greatness in hearing a group of girls brag about “coding” since they were 8 reminded me again why we have to tap into the interests of our kids and make sure that they all have the opportunities that move them most.

We aren’t the first school to do a student hackathon but it is a first for us and while I watch the timelines of friends and shares of students building and developing amazing things, I can’t help but remember what brought us to this point…

Why not us? Why not Lufkin?

We can. We are. You can too.

Comments 1

  1. Pingback: Reflecting on A Summer of Making and Hacking the Classroom with Students | RafranzDavis.com

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