Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

My First Hackathon Experience

When my mom first suggested that I attend a weekend long hackathon, I immediately thought “NO.” Besides Scratch, I didn’t have much coding experience, so attending a hackathon sounded like a painful and embarrassing situation. Thankfully, I was so wrong. My friend Natalie and I decided to attend PixelHacks II together and ended up having an amazing time.

Check-in with Natalie (right) and PixelHacks II organizer (left)

This was the second PixelHacks, an annual all-female high school hackathon in the Bay Area. This year, over 120 high school women attended the event. When we first checked in, we were immediately welcomed by the super friendly organizers. Medallia, a software company focusing on customer experiences, was a wonderful venue for the event. There was plenty of room for all of us to get comfortable and ready to learn and code. Before the opening ceremony even began, we were given an abundance of cool swag and snacks! I received multiple shirts, a water bottle, a fanny pack, pens, notebooks, and dozens of laptop stickers.

Collecting swag!

Despite the warmth and friendliness of everyone, I was still pretty nervous about the hackathon. Luckily, Natalie and I met two other girls who were happy to join our team. They were super nice and we worked well together the entire weekend. As a team, we created Map Me, which was an app to help navigate malls. To use our app, one would take a picture of a mall map (including the stores that the mall contains). The app would then scan the map and locate each stop, displaying them in a drop down menu. The user would then select their location of choice and Map Me would draw a line providing directions how to get there.

PixelHacks II was great in so many ways. I really enjoyed meeting and working with other girls who wanted to try coding. As I settled in and got more comfortable, I realized that there was nothing to be worried about. Everyone was extremely helpful and supportive. If we had a problem there was always someone to ask for assistance at the mentor table. There were also numerous workshops, from UX design to machine learning. We also heard from a Women In Tech Panel, which consisted of four women working in different fields of the tech industry. It was eye-opening to have so many role models and mentors.

Going into the weekend, I had hoped to learn a little about STEM, programming, attend a workshop, and listen to some speakers. I did not have any expectations for my project — I just wanted to learn. Therefore, my team and I were astonished and super excited when Map Me won a category prize (Best Use of Firebase) for our app! It was so rewarding to be recognized for creating something in 24 hours.

I am so happy that I was able to experience this all-girls hackathon. It was a fantastic introduction to coding and other tech opportunities, not to mention the abundant free swag and food (including Hi-Chew and boba)! Being a part of this experience has given me a new outlook on computer science. It has opened my eyes to the wide range of opportunities that computer science provides. I really appreciate all the time and hard work that the PixelHacks II team (and everyone else who was involved) put into this. I had a blast and can’t wait until next year!