The Hackathon Village

“It takes a village to raise a child.” – African proverb

“…also to put on a youth hackathon” – Level Playing Field Institute

Last summer, the team at the Level Playing Field Institute had a crazy idea (we’ve been serving students for 13 years – it’s bound to happen from time to time). Let’s take underrepresented students in STEM with little to no exposure to computer science, get them together for a fast-paced weekend with mentors, judges, laptops, online building tools, lots of post-it notes and poster paper and see what we can make happen in a weekend. In collaboration with the Kapor Center for Social Impact and friends in the education and technology spaces, the Level the Coding Field hackathons were born!

Powered by an innovative design-thinking curriculum grounded in a social justice framework, we organized teams of students guided by volunteer mentors and asked them to think through assets and challenges in their communities, explore root causes, conduct market research, and build a mobile app to address the challenges.

The result: Incredibly motivated students creating mobile apps informed by their lived experiences and which harness the strengths of their communities to address the challenges. From safe-walking apps powered by community monitoring to social health-improvement solutions, the students have showed us the power of their ingenuity and thoughtfulness of their voices.

For the students to shine bright, the village had to come together to foster their untapped potential. This support took all forms. Without volunteers from companies like Twilio, Twitter and Silicon Valley Bank and organizations like the Oakland Unified School District, Code2040 and Black Girls Code, our students would not have the role models and guides that they so desperately seek out and too often miss out on in under-served communities.

Without Balsamiq and, who generously provided our students with incredibly user friendly app bulding tools, our students would not have platforms with which to express themselves and to create a product they could be proud of.

Without our incredible sponsors, including the Kapor Center for Social Impact, Silicon Valley Bank, and AT&T and partners like YTH and REACH Ashland Youth Center, our students would not have the support, facilities and infrastructure they need to carry out their mobile app builds.

And build they must – they are building our collective tomorrow after all.

From sponsors to partners to volunteers, let us know if you are interested in joining this village!