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Student (17) launched first youth hackathon

11 November 2015

A 17-year-old Hautlieu student has set up a new hackathon specifically for secondary school students and it takes place for the first time next weekend.

Benedict Lewis is expecting about 60 fellow students aged from 11 to 18 to take part in the new Youth Hackathon, which takes place over 18 hours through the night at the Digital Hub on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 November. It has been sponsored by KPMG and the British Computer Society.

“Hackathons” are competitive programming challenges that run continuously over a short timescale. At a recent local Hackathon for adults, participants developed digital tools for the health industry in just 36 hours. This Youth Hackathon is first of its kind in Jersey, possibly anywhere, and has been arranged in conjunction with IT co-ordinators in schools. The judges will be high-profile members of the IT industry.

Benedict, who is studying computing, maths and philosophy A-level, is already developing his own online business providing real-time social media analysis. He is also a mentor at Jersey Coders and teaches about 30 students. He had the idea for the Youth Hackathon after competing in previous events for adults.

 “A lot of young people were taking part but it was difficult for them to win anything because of the skills gap between youths and people already working in the industry. This hackathon is targeted at secondary students,” he said. “It’s a chance to build something awesome, network with other students and win some prizes.”

The Youth Hackathon website explains that Hackathons provide a venue for self-expression and creativity through technology. People with technical backgrounds come together, form teams around a problem or idea, and collaboratively code a unique solution from scratch - these generally take shape in the form of websites, mobile apps, and robots.

Youth hackers are being challenged to ‘Build something to change everything’.

Benedict explained “The idea is for students to come up with something that enhances how they communicate and collaborate with each other. The emphasis is on having definite benefits and 30% of the marks are awarded for the idea, the concept. We want people to spend time discussing the ideas and come up with something that has potential to make a real change.”

Hautlieu Deputy Head Stuart Hughes said “This is a great event to bring together education and this industry. Computing is being taught in our schools and this event will give students the opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities from a problem solving, team working and programming perspective and also to enjoy this kind of challenge.”

KPMG Chairman and sponsor Jason Laity said "KPMG are pleased to be able to extend their support for the previous hackathons to this event aimed at Jersey's innovators of the future - we are really looking forward to seeing what they produce!"

ESC Minister Deputy Rod Bryans said “Benedict is another of the computing stars in our schools and his project shows the great momentum that exists across the age range, and the talent. The Youth Hackathon couldn’t happen without the support of teachers who are all giving up their time free of charge so I’d like to thank them for their support.”

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