For the week of June 15-19, I spent my mornings learning how to “hack” computer systems. No, I wasn’t setting myself up for future lawsuits, I was actually participating in a hackathon event, where budding computer programmers tackle some of the challenges facing a wide range of business industries. At BitHacks 2020, students all over the United States gathered to develop strategies and solutions that will streamline user experience, when working with machines, in the workplace, the marketplace, at school, and in entertainment. In a one-week online conference and workshop, 100 high school and college students collaborated on group projects involving computer programming, specifically software development, graphic design, and project management. Once the event started, students formed teams of 3-4 people in order to work on various projects together. Takai, the company organizing this event, then set up workshops for students to begin learning about the world of issues related to computer programming and how to develop the skills to fix them. These workshops included expert guest speakers on topics including machine learning, VR (Virtual Reality), and adaptive machines. Although I didn’t know much about these topics at first, I was amazed at the amount of knowledge I gained in one week’s time, and my ability to formulate my own ideas, opinions, and methods on how to make technology more productive.
In the first workshop I attended, I listened to guest speaker Zane Hasnain. Hasnain is a student from Virginia Tech university and is passionate in the field of machine learning. Machine learning is the creation of computer algorithms and programs that improve the computer’s ability to do a task automatically. In his session, Hasnain talked about machine learning techniques and their applications using simulations that can predict future results based on data that is given. He went over really fascinating topics in machine learning such as different algorithms that the computer uses when it is going through the “learning” process. Machine learning is being incorporated into technology at an even faster rate today and many future inventions, such as fully self-driving cars, will rely on this heavily.
This workshop, along with others, taught students how to program computers to allow them to make reasonable predictions in the world of sports, weather, or Wall Street. Ironically, the current COVID-19 crisis may have improved BitHacks attendance, as students from New York to San Francisco were able to attend this year’s event because it was completely online. Due to streaming platforms and amazing guest speakers,BitHacks 2020 was an amazing experience which I encourage others to join in next year.
Jonathan Chun, 10th Grade
West Ranch High School