On October 10th, a warm and sunny Saturday in Denville, NJ, 110 high school students were in the cafeteria of Morris County School Technology (MSCT) at 8:30 in the morning. Instead of enjoying the beautiful weather, the students were hard at work huddled in front of their laptops. However, these students were far from sad to be at school on a weekend because they were spending the day doing what they were passionate about; building cool applications, complex robots, and other projects with their peers.
This day marked the first Local Hack Day at Morris County School of Technology—a day where high school students in the area (and even a few middle school students) spent the day developing innovative projects. There weren’t any limitations to the types of hacks students could do, but most focused on app development, WebRTC, and website creation. The creativity and talent of these students could be clearly seen from the start. One team even brought in a black garbage bag filled with Lego pieces, and built a Lego car that would follow the stream of a laser.
There were various workshops that would help the hackers with their hacks, or just learn different skills. Some sessions were taught by other students who were well-versed in specific subjects. Our very own Dan Wolanski did a workshop on WebRTC, where students learned how to design and develop an API for peer-to-peer video web conferencing. The students then were able to utilize the API natively within their browser to make a WebRTC video conference in class!
Prior to the hackathon, Dialogic had an in-class intro session at the high school for juniors and seniors on Voice over IP services. From the first session, it was obvious that these students knew technology. For example, one junior asked “I know that my cell is running AMR (an audio codec optimized for speech coding). How can that talk with my computer that is compressing with something else?” Being the technology enthusiasts they are, they also asked Dan about his opinion on Google Glass, or whether the iPhone is better than the Android or vice versa. With questions like these, it is obvious that the level of complexity of the local hack day projects shouldn’t come as a surprise.
After a nice hot meal, the three judges went around to the different teams to assess their projects based on credentials like business applicability, polish, and functionality. The first prize of Fitbits and $25 Amazon gift cards went to team SnapTrav2 for their app, which notified app users of any delays in Manhattan subway lines in real-time. The second prize of Fitbits and portable phone chargers went to team 3D Alpha, who created a virtual 3D environment that could be used as a backend development tool to build a video game. The 3rd prize of Fitbits went to team Physics-Calculator, who developed a website that allowed you to enter physics formulas, and would output an answer based on the values given. The website also provided you a physics explanation explaining how that answer came to be, which would surely be useful to many physics students. All of the projects were impressive, and it was hard for the judges to decide the top 3.
The day ended with a cup stacking competition to solidify the friendships they made that day. We’d like to give special thanks Yashwee and Aashka, the organizers of the event, who are also juniors at MSCT. We would also like to thank Mr.Hendricks, the current computer science teacher at MCST and former Dialogic Engineer, and Ms.Eberhardt, supervisor of the STEM program at the school for their dedicated support in making this event a reality. Let’s make next year’s MCST Local Hack Day even better!