Middle school, high school and college students will put their real-world problem solving and computer coding skills to the test creating an app to solve a California water issue in the 5th annual H2O Hackathon competition on Saturday.
Randy Moehnke, a teacher at West High’s Space and Engineering Academy, said the school will field four teams in the day long competition. West High finished in first place two years ago when the competition was last held. Last year’s H20 Hackathon was cancelled at the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They’re given a challenge at the start, since it’s an H20 the challenge is related to water, water conservation, water issues that sort of thing— they have to come up with a solution to the problem that involves some sort of app since it’s a coding challenge,” Moehnke said.
This year’s challenge will be based on protecting the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary, one of the largest estuaries in the United States that provides water to more than 25 million California residents, farmlands and fish and wildlife habitats.
“They go through a whole bunch of skills that are great skills for them to be learning and applying. They’ve got to brainstorm ideas and pick a solution and then they have to do the actual coding for it and then present it and articulate clearly what it is, what it does and why it would be a benefit,” Moehnke said.
Teams of four students and a coach will build their apps in APP Lab from Code.org, a block-based coding platform. Competitors will follow a lesson plan developed by CodeStack, the county office of education’s software engineering department.
As of Monday, 25 teams had registered to compete with 14 of the teams in the high school division from eight different schools.
A panel of community leaders and experts will judge entries. The teams with the top app in each division will share $5,000, with second place winning $1,000 and third place winning $500.
The H20 Hackathon was opened to middle school students for the first time this year.
The event will have experts involved in water management, water resources and conservation along with coding experts to talk with the students and help them with information and ideas.
“It’s very real-world activity for the students,” Moehnke said.
The competition will give students a chance to hone their coding skill.
“It’s not a course every school has like math or science, but I think it’s becoming more common. We have the Space and Engineering Academy here, so we already got a lot of students interested in that sort of thing. It’s a great way for them to put their skills to practice,” Moehnke said.
The event is organized by the San Joaquin County Office of Education and iHub of San Joaquin. It will be held virtually because of the pandemic.
“It’s not a classroom experience. It’s more like a real-world experience. It’s giving students an experience on the way coding is actually used out there in the real world, so to speak,” Moehnke said. “It’s highly motivating for the students they have a really good time with it.”
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