Students participate in hack-a-thon for a good cause


It starts out with typing, scribbling and even a little card-playing. But within 32 hours, each team hopes to turn the code they're writing into a playable online game. Between now and then, there won't be much sleeping going on.

For these young engineering students it's a first glimpse at a Silicon Valley tradition called a hack-a-thon.

"People tend to get together with the four crucial ingredients which are power, food, coffee and Internet, not in any particular order, and focus on a problem for a particular amount of time," said Josh Bancroft with Intel developer relations.

"As a way of taking a project that might otherwise take months, and doing it in a very short period of time," said computer science instructor Tom Murphy.

That means learning on the job and feeding off of the excitement.

"When I'm in the groove, all I can really think about is how can I fix this, change that, add some more," said student Alejandro Ramirez Escanellas. "All I'm thinking about is the code, really, and what I want the code to do, and I just get really happy when the code does what I want it to do."

But as these college students learn to be better programmers, they're also helping younger students learn about math. Each of the apps they create here is an educational game that will help teach middle school Algebra, part of a larger initiative called Code for Good.

"I think that people here are very much motivated by the fact that they are going to be helping kids learn through the production of these applications. I think it's different than what you'd see if we were creating apps to make money."

The students admit they're learning a little math themselves, but they're also learning things like teamwork and how to solve problems in the real world.

"It's OK to bang your head on the wall as much as you can until you figure it out," said student Ferissa Lagasca.

Copyright © 2023 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.