Last spring, I attended HackTJ, a 24-hour hackathon at my high school where I teamed up with 3 friends to develop MapifyTJ, a micro-location iPhone app for finding fellow students and teachers within our school (think Marauder’s Map for a high school). We emerged after 24 straight hours of work (who cares about sleep anyway?) with a barely functional prototype, and pitched it to the audience. Through my exhaustion I barely realized we had won 1st place. During and after HackTJ, I was able to see and hear firsthand how the event inspired my friends to take the time outside to learn how to develop apps and consider a career in computer science and entrepreneurship.
After the event, I joined with the organizers of HackTJ (one of whom is Alex S., a fellow freshman M&T), to work on an organization called Pilot. At Pilot, we think events like HackTJ are a vital part of a modern education. It’s not about what you already know, but how quickly you can learn and pick up new skills. At Pilot events students apply everything they’ve learned in the classroom along with what they’ve learned on their own time, and develop a product. Alex and I are currently working on organizing the Philadelphia event, PilotPhilly, a 24-hour event that will bring high school students from across the Northeast to collaborate on projects with the help of mentors and developers.
Not only are the events a great way to inspire and educate high school students about building out their ideas, but they also provide an avenue for students to explore the intersection of Management and Technology. A valuable aspect of M&T is that we learn not only how to pitch, market, and sell a product, but also how to develop it in the first place. Participants at Pilot events develop and pitch the product during the event, and can even continue the project and turn it into a startup after. Greenvote, a startup founded by three M&T sophomores is just one of a plethora of examples of startups which began at hackathons. In the end, our goal is to provide an awesome learning experience for high school students and to inspire and motivate them to bring their ideas to life.
PilotPhilly is hosted at Penn on November 9th-10th, and I can’t wait to see what awesome creations students from the Northeast will build in a day.
Ben is a current M&T freshman in the Class of 2017 from Herndon, Virginia. He is contemplating studying either Computer Science or Computer Engineering within Penn Engineering and has yet to declare his concentration in the Wharton School.