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Hackathon teaches students to be web wizards

A one-day seminar for teenagers to learn about computer coding, the Holiday Hackathon, scored high marks with its student attendees.

With the latest apps and mobiles games sweeping the world, the power and simplicity of modern programming are especially palpable to youngsters.

“We learnt about making iPhone apps, building websites — basically learning how to tell the computer what to do,” explained Kendrea Dill, 16, a student at CedarBridge Academy.

Using an example from recent fads, she said the Hackathon took students into the inner workings of the popular Flappy Bird game.

A lucrative, Nintendo-reminiscent game featuring a bird navigating cartoon pipes, Flappy Bird was heading to the tops of the app charts two years ago.

So alarmed was its creator at the number of people getting hooked on his game that he ordered it to be pulled from app stores in February 2014.

Kendrea said she had been introduced to coding through her classes in school.

Even though she no longer felt inclined to pursue it to a deeper level, the Hackathon piqued her interest in learning more about JavaScript, creating websites and tinkering with games.

“In some of the things we looked at, they go into great detail,” she said.

This view was shared by 13-year-old Sophia Marsh, who described the latest Hackathon as “more advanced” than the first.

The intensive class for teenagers was brought home by Bermudian programmer Jahde Eve, and hosted in the offices of XL Catlin.

“Obviously I'm here because my parents wanted me to do it, but I love coding as well,” said Sophia, a Bermuda High School student.

“Last year's was so much fun. It's fun this year but they set some harder stuff this time.”

Interested in studying law, Sophia said she was also pondering a future in coding.

As well as learning about computing laws for creating their own games, the students were shown ways to change games as well.

She recommended the website www.codecademy for further studies, as did Michaela Lewin, 17, a student at the Bermuda Institute. Like many of the young people there, Michaela had found herself at home with nothing to do over the holiday — or, as she put it, “my options were open”.

“I really wanted to be a computer programmer when I was in the fourth grade,” she said. “That was something everybody wanted to do.

“Being able to come to something like this and learn how to actually do it is pretty cool.”

She mentioned learning “the breakdown of the Flappy Bird game”, but took particular interest in the basics behind websites.

With an eye on public relations as a potential job in the future, Michaela saw that learning how to build and manage websites would prove essential.

“What we're doing here can push it forward for me,” she said.

Making learning fun: the second annual free Holiday Hackathon, organised by the non-profit group Code 411, helped to teach Bermudians between the ages of 12 and 17 about computer programming and coding. The young participants learnt how to make apps and build websites, among other activities (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published December 29, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated December 29, 2015 at 1:21 am)

Hackathon teaches students to be web wizards

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