Hack SC Jr. – Instilling Confidence in the Next Generation of Engineers
Hack SC Jr. is a USC student-led organization that hosts a hackathon each year designed specifically for students grades 4-12. March 31st is the date for this year's hackathon, which is themed "Life Hacks 2.0" at the USC campus from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; applications close on March 14th. The organization was founded by Kourtney Chima, a junior studying Computer Engineering and Computer Science, and Osagie Ero, a senior majoring in Economics and Math and minoring in Computer Programming. A hackathon is a fun gathering of energetic people who contribute to solving a challenge by using programming or computer science; most hackathons are sprints lasting over 24 hours, but the Hack SC Jr. event will run 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Download a flyer here.
Chima and Ero started Hack SC Jr. one year ago with the desire to provide students a new outlet to continue their learn after attending USC's summer camp, CS@SC, directed by Professor Jeffrey Miller. Their vision is to increase the participation in tech of young girls and kids from underrepresented backgrounds by giving them their own time and space to tinker and explore new technologies alongside USC student mentors.
Participant reviewing Scratch coding program
Chima became passionate about creating Hack SC Jr. because when she was in high school in Nigeria, she helped tutor students in a weekend program. That's when she realized what a critical phase childhood was: "It is so important because the experiences we have and the opportunities we are exposed to at a young age influence what we want and think we can do." Chima wants Hack SC Jr. to be about "instilling that confidence in these kids and making them comfortable in this [engineering] space." She wants to "help them be able to see themselves succeeding in technology and engineering."
Kourtney Chima (left) with participants at last year's event
The popularity of the Hack SC Jr. shows the desire in the community for K-12 hands-on experience and opportunities for neighborhood students to interact with USC students. The first year Hack SC Jr. hosted its program, the members planned for 50 people, then 200 students signed up. This year, Ero and Chima have a few goals. They want to bring in 300 students to Hack SC Jr. this year, focusing on students from around the USC area. To do this, they are working with multiple USC outreach departments including Viterbi's Adopt-A-School, Adopt-A-Teacher (VAST) Program and the Center for Engineering Diversity. They also want to increase the participation of girls at the event. Last year, 36% of the attendees were girls, so they are especially encouraging girls to attend.
This year's hackathon will have some new workshops, but Chima and Ero are happy to have Facebook back to sponsor the Oculus Demo again. Other workshops include Scratch, web development, Python, and Java. At the end of the event, students will receive certificates for participating, and some students will go home with prizes that will help them continue what they learned at the event.