Middle school students 'hack Hudson' with app design competition

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More than 200 Hudson County students, teachers, and parents took part in the inaugural Hudson County Hack-a-Thon on June 2 at Liberty Science Center. Over the course of seven hours, the one-day mobile app creation competition, nicknamed “Hack Hudson,” challenged 120 students from Jersey City Public Schools, Union City Public Schools, and other Hudson County districts to use coding and technology to identify and solve a community problem.

The Hack-a-Thon kicked off with introductions and inspirational words from Jazlyn Carvajal, co-founder of Latinas in STEM. Keynote speaker Eduardo McLean, a Google senior software engineer, shared the importance of resiliency in his career and motivated students to embrace challenges. “You are all young and you have the amazing gift of time. Take today as an opportunity to refine your skills early and get a head start on being great,” McLean advised to the students.

<i><center>Eduardo McLean and Jazlyn Carvajal</i></center>
Eduardo McLean and Jazlyn Carvajal

Hudson County students then launched into creative thinking, problem solving, and hands-on learning. While students were exploring design thinking, over 60 parents also had the opportunity to acquire new skills at Saturday’s event. The full-day workshop allowed parents to learn the basics of design learning, coding, and how to prepare for college and financial aid. “With the demand for STEM skills growing at such a rapid pace, we felt it was just as important to educate our participants’ parents on these topics, as it was to educate the students themselves,” said Jazlyn Carvajal, co-founder of Latinas in STEM and Chair of the Liberty STEM Alliance Hack-a-thon Planning Committee.

The winning app tackled the challenge of bullying in schools, with the other finalists proposing an app to find missing items and an app to randomly generate passwords.

A heartfelt thank you to our volunteers and sponsors, including Horizon BlueCross, New Jersey City University, and Hudson County Community College. Support for Hack Hudson was generously provided to the Liberty STEM Alliance by the New Jersey STEM Pathways Network via the Overdeck Family Foundation, Latinas in STEM, Jersey City Public Schools, and the Union City Board of Education.

You can learn more about Hack Hudson by visiting www.hackhudson.com and the Liberty STEM Alliance by visiting https://njstempathways.org.

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