Big weekend for 'High School Hackers' at PennApps, MHacks - Technical.ly Philly

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Jan. 22, 2015 7:33 am

Big weekend for ‘High School Hackers’ at PennApps, MHacks

Members of the international group for young technologists (founded by Philly teen Victor Lourng) spent last weekend at two major student-run hackathons.

Members of the High School Hackers meetup who attended PennApps Winter 2015 over the weekend.

(Photo courtesy of PennApps)

It was a big weekend for high school hackers: more than 90 students decided to hack at PennApps Winter 2015, in Philly, while more than 200 students were simultaneously hacking at MHacks, in Ann Arbor, Mich. Those were record numbers for the High School Hackers group, which high school junior and CodeDay Philly organizer Victor Lourng started in November 2013.

With more than 3,552 members across 46 different states and 87 different countries, the High School Hackers group has grown exponentially since its founding.

In development is the HS Hackers app, Lourng said, which is meant to help high school hackers schedule meetups and events for collaborating on different projects. Lourng also announced the rebranding of Minor League Hacking into Ignition.

"Programming changes lives."
Zach Latta, HackEDU

Lourng was extremely excited about this year’s PennApps meetup and how high schoolers have been wining hackathons in the past year. An example Lourng gave was in MHacks III, which was won by a group of three high school students and an MIT freshman. At last year’s PennApps X, the winning team, Fuji, was comprised of one high school hacker, while the second place team, Magic Board, featured three high school hackers.

High School Hackers at this year’s PennApps

At this year’s PennApps, Team Helix, comprised of four High School Hackers — Rohan Shah (who is set to attend the University of Pennsylvania), James Harnett, Krish Dholakya and Isaiah Turner — won the best overall health hack and best consumer health hack.

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The team created an application that would help doctors send instructions and reminders to patients, while also helping patients communicate with their doctors. Their app also takes advantage of wearable technology devices to collect health data and have it coordinated between the doctor and patient in real time.

It was amazing seeing what the high school hackers were able to come up with.

Team Flyr

Team Flyr at PennApps showing off an Oculus Rift, Pebble watch and AR.Drone. (Photo by David Ongchoco)

We spoke with high school hackers Sankruth Kota, Nirmal Prakash, Vasu Laroiya and Rishi Masand from Middlesex County Academy in Edison, N.J.

This group of high school students combined some of the latest technologies in the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, Pebble smartwatch and the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 to create Flyr. Flyr uses the Oculus Rift and Pebble to control the AR.Drone, creating a “smart drone.”

High School Hacker Nelson Liu — who came all the way from California — loved how friendly the people were at PennApps — from the attendees, to the staff, to the volunteers.

“Everyone was making new friends and sharing ideas,” he said. “While most people learn new technical skills at hackathons, PennApps also enabled a lot of people to gain exposure to new modes of thinking.”

Liu’s team ended up building an AR.Drone controlled by the Myo armband. The team has one of the best PennApps videos we’ve seen:

Just do it

Young Hackers founder Austin Carvey emphasized how a lot of hacking and organizing hackathons is about breaking down whatever goals or projects you have to smaller pieces then just doing it.

HackEDU founder and High School Hacker Zach Latta was also at PennApps to talk about the goal of his organization, which is a nonprofit that helps high school students start programming clubs.

“Programming changes lives,” Latta, of San Francisco, said.

The idea for HackEDU started when he starting a programming club in his school, teaching 11 of his friends how to code. Since then, they’ve helped 24 high schools start their own programming clubs.

Lourng, the founder of High School Hackers, says his goal is to continue exposing high schoolers across America and to events like PennApps and MHacks.

Why? To build cool products, learn new things and meet new friends.

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