From Arya, News Team Contributor
Rahul Datta is the high school junior who is in charge of Tri-Valley Hacks, “the first 24-hour hackathon in the Tri-Valley area specifically for high school students.” As Datta puts it, “with the help of Foothill High School’s Cyber Security club, Tri-Valley Hacks hopes to empower the next generation of Bay Area youth, by teaching the modus operandi of the world through the collaborative opportunities that present themselves at its hackathons.” Weibo Yang alongside other Foothill and Amador alumni started the hackathon back in 2019, and he offered Rahul the leadership in April of 2022 alongside a new team. Datta credits key stakeholders including the City of Pleasanton, employee Library and Recreation Coordinator Julian Mireles, and Foothill Cyber Security officers Shival Shah, Ashwin Sriram, Yash Shelar, and Tejas Prakash as his “support system” who helped him “plan and execute this momentous achievement for high school students around the Tri-Valley” this year.
Datta explained the extensive planning process for the event this year. “Over the summer, we started reaching out to sponsors and college students who could serve as mentors for our workshops. Quite a few companies confirmed they wanted to sponsor our mission, and we also found more than enough college students that were willing to come out to help give back to the community. We then started working on the specifics, including the schedule, location (we collaborated with The City to host the event at the Pleasanton Senior Center for a full day), and food, among others.”
Next came the key step of encouraging participants to sign up. Though a 24-hour hackathon may seem daunting, Datta and the team were able to put together a fun event for the great response of over 100 teens to signup. Datta explained how “most of our participants came through word of mouth. We advertised on local social media, such as Nextdoor, and Discord servers because they primarily included our target demographic. From there, and from our friends within schools, the word spread about the event and people came from all over the Bay Area, with some people even coming from as far as central California.”
As for the event itself, the hackathon had 4 judges. Julian Mireles was the City of Pleasanton representative who also helped plan the city’s involvement. The other 3 were Sergio Sánchez, a computer data scientist (who was also a computer science mentor and a career workshop host for the hackathon), Foothill math teacher Dr. Mozgina, and Kate Sergeeva, a DataOps Engineer for Veeva Systems. Participants competed in teams to create an app that could better the community. TVH also put together workshops that helped improve the technical computer science skills of participants.
Three groups won prizes this year. Datta detailed that “the first place project was a webpage that helped with mental health, and they implemented a chatbot that anyone, but specifically people suffering from mental health issues, could chat with over text. This group included Kritika Das, Ritika Gupta, and Manya Saxena; all three were Amador students.”
“The second place project was an idea for a device paired with software that could tell how dry certain areas were, and therefore the inherent possibility of wildfires. This group included Sunny Jayaram, Bryan Turns, Arhum Khan, and Emilio Lim.”
“The third place project was a program that enabled people to buy produce from local farmers, sort of like a virtual farmers market, which included Shubham Patil and Gautam Paranjape.”
Datta believes that students should participate in Tri-Valley Hacks because it “uniquely brings people together to interact in ways that benefit our community while getting out of the house. Many students these days are hyper-focused on getting into the college of their dreams, and I believe Tri-Valley Hacks is special because we help people learn while also fostering connections with their peers, especially those with similar interests. Our hackathon is an exciting event while also being learning-centric, leading to participants enjoying the process of learning. We came up with the idea to do this so differently from other hackathons just by reflecting on how we would have liked to have been taught basic cybersecurity and computer science.”
The event also has a wonderful impact on the community by bringing people together. As Datta explained, “the primary reason we run this event every year is so that we can help high school students foster connections with their peers that have similar interests to them. Computer Science tends to be a very isolated field until you reach the job stage. Until then, people are learning by themselves behind a computer screen, and perhaps only meeting others with similar interests online. Tri-Valley Hacks is our attempt to combat this issue within our community while giving back, by teaching other students in the same ways we would have liked to learn the basics.” The theme of the event, as some could tell, was to create a hack (website, app, game, or software) that would benefit communities.As for next year, Datta is happy to say that planning has already started for Tri-Valley Hacks 2023. “We can promise next year will be an even bigger blast, based on several surprises we are planning for next year’s hackathon. Be on the lookout for information about Tri-Valley Hacks 2023 this summer!”
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