DOWNEY – Several kids participated in a virtual reality "hack-a-thon" over the weekend, hosted by the Columbia Memorial Space Center.
The hack-a-thon event took place over Saturday and Sunday in Northern and Southern California. The event’s Southern California activities completely took over Downey’s popular science museum.
“This is the first ever ‘We are Code’ Hack-a-thon,’” said Stephen Vann Heflin, Programs Director at Dhat Stone High Tech Learning Academy. “…the purpose of this is to develop an app, or a website, or a video game to help the community….it’s to introduce inter-city kids – black and brown kids – to coding because we represent less than one percent of the tech community, and more jobs are being formed in the tech community than anything else.
"We start them young, give them the resources, and plant that idea, and watch it grow.”
This was the first ever virtual reality hack-a-thon between the Bay Area and Southern California.
Kids who attended the event were split into teams and tasked to create some kind of technology that would benefit their community. While each team worked, they were treated to the guidance of mentors and coaches who are experts in the field, as well as accessible workshop booths.
There were also keynote speakers who addressed the participants at the beginning of the day.
The ideas each team came up with varied from imaginative to practical use, including a fire emergency simulator, an immersive dinosaur experience, and a career track program.
CMSC President Ben Dickow expressed that events like the hack-a-thon reinforced the space center's mission.
“I’ve said this a million times, but our mission is to ignite a community of critical and creative thinkers. Stuff like this is very much about that,” said Dickow. “...They’re all working in teams, they don’t know each other, but they’re coming together because of STEM, and I think that’s pretty cool.”