When the NuevaHacks team learned that the Bay Area would be sheltering in place for the foreseeable future, they had to pivot their planning for the third annual NuevaHacks hackathon, which was originally scheduled as an in-person event for the weekend of April 3. The 25-person leadership team got into gear and reimagined the hackathon as an online-only experience.
“We needed a completely new approach to organizing the event,” said Yash N., sophomore and NuevaHacks founder. “We pivoted to a 10-day virtual, worldwide hackathon for students to come together and collaborate during this time of crisis.” The event took place over Nueva’s spring break, from April 10 through the 17th.
With its ability to transcend location and time, NuevaHacks had 350 students from eight countries on 100 teams, a remarkable 250 percent increase in participants over last year’s event. The group of participants came from quite diverse locations and backgrounds: While Nueva students made up the largest representation from any single school, 78 percent of participants attend other schools throughout the world.
For NuevaHacks III, the goal for participants was to create a product that addresses a problem facing their community or the world. They had the option of designing, coding, or simply pitching an idea to the judges—“a panel of very accomplished judges,” Yash said.
Each day, the NuevaHacks leaders sent out a morning email with guidance for the day, the schedule, and various resources. The hackathon relied on Discord, a chat app similar to Slack or Skype and specifically designed for students and companies.
“Discord was our main mode of asynchronous communication, where participants got the latest announcements, were able to ask for help from developers, have their questions answered from our team, and communicate with their team members,” Yash explained. “It was important for us to ensure we covered people across different time zones and provided timely access to resources.”
In addition to the hackathon competition, for which $5,500 was doled out in prize winnings, participants had the opportunity each day to listen to a variety of guest experts:
- Dan Kan, co-founder of Cruise Automation, who discussed his childhood and how he is leading the world’s biggest, most advanced self-driving car company
- Mada Seghte, co-founder of Branch, who discussed her journey from growing up in communist Romania to attending Stanford University to leading one of the biggest digital marketing platforms
- Ari Nazem, sophomore class president at Stanford, who led a conversational about how to double down on one’s passions and find people to supplement one’s skills
- Edward Hartment, Nueva parent and co-founder of LegalZoom, who shared what failure has taught him, how to find value in business, and how the next generation of thinkers can use computer science to make a difference in law
- Aaref Hilaly, partner at Wing Capital, who discussed his childhood and what makes a great pitch
“For me personally, Dan Kan’s talk really touched my heart because of my interest in self-driving cars and robotics,” Yash reflected. “One thing that really resonated with me was his experience on how you don’t get what you don’t ask for.”
On the final day of NuevaHacks, the team hosted an awards ceremony and announced the winners. Team Bread, composed of students from Los Altos High School and Mountain View High School, took first place and the $750 prize for their creation, SATwich, an app that has the potential to transform the SAT practice landscape.
Two Nueva students took second and third place, with senior Izzy S. earning second place for his project, mincodec, a novel serialization format that is more efficient than existing solutions. Judges were blown away, and even wanted to offer him internship opportunities!
Third place was awarded to Nueva seventh grader FanFan J. for his project, SignTalk, an innovative solution using artificial intelligence to interpret sign language.
“I know how much work Yash and his team put into this before they even launched the event and I can only imagine how much time they spent during the week,” Head of School Diane Rosenberg said. “I saw the updates they were sending at all hours. Their communication was outstanding. Congratulations to Yash and his team members; this was an extraordinary undertaking.”