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60 Seconds with NuevaHacks II Founder, Yash N.
Communications Team

May 21, 2019

The second annual Nueva Hackathon, a sprint-like design event where participants code to create or problem-solve an idea from concept to prototype in 24 hours, took place the weekend of March 30-31, 2019 at the San Mateo campus. Over the two-day NuevaHacks II, students had the opportunity to create anything -- a computer game, mobile app, machine learning project -- with absolutely no programming experience needed. Organized by Nueva ninth-grader Yash N., NuevaHacks is a vibrant student-led hackathon featuring world-class speakers, awe-inspiring mentors, delicious food, and prizes. Nueva News sat down with Yash to learn more about this year’s NuevaHacks:

What was your inspiration for organizing NuevaHacks, and why did you want to bring it to Nueva?

I was first introduced to Hackathons when I was 9. I went to iOS Developer Camp, a hackathon held at PayPal’s headquarters, which attracts over 500 developers annually. I was curious to learn about what a hackathon was all about, and I ended up participating and winning for a product I created called BullyWatch. Since then, my passion for technology has skyrocketed.

I founded NuevaHacks last year when I was an eighth grader because of the transformational impact participating in hackathons has had for me, sparking my interest in computer science and robotics at a young age. I wanted to bring it to Nueva to inspire creativity, ingenuity, and innovation in our students. 

Our mission for NuevaHacks is to inspire as many students as possible to become interested in computer science, think differently about technology, and create innovative projects that impact the world.

How has NuevaHacks II grown from the first event last year?

Last year, we only invited Nueva middle school students, and hosted a one-day event with 50 attendees. This year NuevaHacks grew to an incredible two days. We opened the event to both Nueva middle and upper school students, and for the first time invited a few other schools around the Bay Area. We also invited several successful tech entrepreneurs to give talks about how they got interested in technology and the lessons they learned along the way. 

I want to thank our Head of Upper School, Stephen Dunn, our team, Livi P., Sean C., Josh E., all our sponsors, and over 20 chaperones who spent countless hours before and during the event without whom this event would not have been possible. Our goal was to make every element of the hackathon significantly better than last year: the food, the fundraising, the marketing, the number of developers who could be there around the clock to help teams, the talks, the total number of participants, and the impact. 

Yash N. hosted a fireside chat with Daphne Koller at NuevaHacks II

You had some great speakers. What are a few of the most interesting lessons you learned from them?

Yeah, we were extremely fortunate to have some amazing speakers who gave fascinating talks throughout the entire competition. Our speakers included the founder and CEO of Embark Trucks, Alex Rodrigues, who shared his entrepreneurship journey with us. He talked about how he went from building a small Lego robot in seventh grade to building a company that is a leader in self-driving trucks at the age of 23. We also heard from Cliff Weitzman, the founder and CEO of Speechify, a text to speech app he developed to help himself with his dyslexia. Jeremy Rossmann, the founder & CEO of Make School, a company that wants to revolutionize the education space, gave unique tips and advice for how students can land tech internships while still in high school.

We also had a fireside chat with Daphne Koller, the co-founder of Coursera and one of the pioneers of artificial intelligence, about how AI will transform many aspects of our lives including work, education, and healthcare.

We are really grateful to all of our speakers. 

Tell us about the winners of this year’s hackathon.

We had some super-cool projects created in just under two days. In total, there were 19 teams who demoed on day 2. Each team had three minutes to present their product and explain its impact. We gave away eight sponsor prizes, four honorable mentions, and three grand prizes.

The demo session was open to the public, and the whole gymnasium was filled. We assembled a very experienced panel of judges, including LimeBike CTO Li Fan, Twitter Creator & Kryptonic Founder Dom Sagolla, Speechify CEO & Founder Cliff Weitzman, Defy.vc Founder Trae Vassallo, Zum Lead Product Manager Juliana Santarelli, and NEAR Protocol Head of Business Development Aliaksandr Hudzilin, all of whom are leading entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. They rated the projects across three main criterias: 1) Originality, 2) Creativity, and 3) Technicality.

Prizes were given to motivate all the teams to continue working on their projects and turn them into huge success stories, and for participants to become even more inspired to do remarkable feats with computer science and technology. 

  1. First Place: Stephanie S. (Grade 10), Project: Breathe Like a Bear, a mindfulness app developed for kids to help them reset and focus.
  2. Second Place: Daniel M., Jasper W., and Ben G., Project: Biased, a web app that uses machine learning to detect political bias in news articles.
  3. Third Place: Karen G., Kira W., Nikki A., Sophia Y., and Audrey A., Project: Train TraX, a mobile app that improves the safety of using public transportation.

Based on NuevaHacks success, I want to make it an annual event for the Nueva community. We had a great time this year and have generated a lot of momentum.

Thank you so much for taking the time to interview with Nueva News, Yash. Congratulations to you and your team on the success of this year’s hackathon. We’re looking forward to exciting things to come. Check them out at: www.nuevahacks.com If you are interested in learning more about NuevaHacks feel free to get in touch with their founder, Yash N at yasnara@nuevaschool.org



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