"Hackathons are where your crazy idea becomes reality" - Alex Kern

Do you have a child who loves anything tech-related?

Or maybe one who is interested in climate change and the world they are inheriting?

Galileo's November Hackathon had kids from around the world participating and collaborating in coming up with solutions to problems the world is facing.

They used tech-focused strategies to create projects that showed their passion and creativity. The projects also allowed students to use their existing skills and pushed them to learn new ways of doing things.

Working collaboratively, students created games and websites that helped them explore their topic to help solve some of the most significant issues facing our planet.

It was incredible to see kids between the ages of 8-18 pushing themselves to tackle a problem and create solutions in a time-pressured situation.

These projects were dreamed up, planned, and executed in a week!

Watching kids take control of their learning and their future is exciting.

Giving them the freedom to engage in a process that requires collaboration, cooperation, problem-solving skills, and communication while working towards a set of valuable outcomes is empowering for them.

Two boys coding on the computer, working on their hackathon project

What is a Virtual Hackathon?

The word 'hackathon' comes from the idea of hacking and a marathon. It is an event where a group of programmers and creatives get together to improve on ideas and innovate new ones.

They are based on endurance, like a marathon, as they take place over 24 hours, or up to one week.

It is an intense time of brainstorming, collaboration, exploration, and dedication that allows the participants to give all their attention to one idea.

They are technology-based and geared towards creating a better future with better systems.

The online nature of hackathons means they occur globally, allowing innovators from all over the world to share ideas and create meaningful outcomes.

Hackathons can improve the systems within a company, and some have resulted in the creation of new startups.

Online Hackathons Around the World

A well-known global hackathon is the Taiwan Presidential Hackathon.

With the climate crisis, the pandemic, and the emergence of new technologies, Taiwan accepts global participation in the hopes of finding sustainable and creative solutions to the problems we all face.

The theme for 2021 was "Sustainability 2.0 Resilient Islands" and covered topics such as "Energy Transformation and Decarbonization," "Sustainable Food, Agriculture, and Ecological Conservation," and "Human Capital," among others.

The EdTech Virtual Hackathon had four challenges this year that were all related to emerging technologies.

  • Challenge 1: Virtual and Augmented Reality - Campus Mapping and AR Content
  • Challenge 2: Artificial Intelligence - Adaptive Learning
  • Challenge 3: Blockchain - Scholar NFTs and Reward Tokenization
  • Challenge 4: Gamification and Metaverses - Immersive Learning and Training Programs

This hackathon is focused on advancing education and looking at learning outside the classroom.

Explanation of the EdTech hackathon and why it's important

The Zero Waste Valley Climate Hackathon aims to bring people together to share knowledge, innovate, and tackle the issue of climate change. The theme for 2021 is "How might we accelerate our region to become a zero-waste valley by 2030?"

But these are big projects with a global reach, and I'm sure you’re wondering how any of this relates to kids.

The Online Hackathon for Self-Directed Students

Self-directed education means kids are free to be creative, out-of-the-box thinkers—the type of thinkers and innovators who could change the world.

The point of these hackathons is to bring people together to create something new and to solve problems. But they also require immense amounts of cooperation, communication, creativity, and respect.

Unfortunately, these are qualities not always nurtured in the traditional system we have today.

By allowing kids to take control of their learning journey with a platform like Galileo, they have the opportunity to be part of a project-based learning approach that fosters these same qualities.

We should want our children to be global citizens, to be aware of the world around them and their place in it.

The opportunity for kids to participate in a hackathon means they use their existing knowledge to meet their goals while also building on their learning.

They can participate regardless of their technical ability. The exciting part of a hackathon is that diversity in skills means diversity in innovation. Creativity and design skills are just as necessary as coding and programming skills.

The topics for this year's hackathon were based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The students had to choose one of the goals to lead their project and then design something that would help move us towards that goal.

The United Nations goals were:

  • No poverty
  • No hunger
  • Climate action
  • Life on land
  • Life below water
  • Clean water
  • Quality education

Yukito - Galileo Hackathon Winner 2021

Yukito's game design project is based on the concept of recycling and helps educate people about what materials are recyclable.

Using Scratch he created an interactive game where you move the recycling bin across the screen to catch the materials (paper, cardboard, and bottles) that are recyclable while avoiding the items that aren't.

Each time you put the wrong item into your recycling bin, you lose one of your three lives. The materials fall from the top of the screen, making for a fun (and increasingly difficult) educational game.

Screenshot of the Recycling game: the winner for the online hackathon

Elin - Original OG Award

For the most creative project, Elin created a short video showing the effects of global warming on animals to educate people on conserving energy.

It is original and sweet with a heartfelt message: "Please save our animals."

Skye - Big Help Award

Skye created a website that won the award for the project that contributes most to the sustainable development goals.

Skye focused on Life Under Water and Clean Water and Sanitation, creating two games for young children.

The goal of the website and the games was to educate people about the importance of conserving water, providing clean water, and protecting our oceans from pollution.

It was colorful, impactful, and informative.

Screenshot of the environmental games made for Galileo's hackathon

Mason - Jolly Junior Award

This award was for the most fun project created by the younger participants, many of them beginners.

Mason created an interactive game with Scratch with appealing characters and music to help people understand the obstacles to ending world hunger.

The game has four levels, each corresponding to an obstacle we face in tackling the problem of world hunger. Natural disasters, climate change, food waste, and war and conflict are tackled at each stage of the game, and you need to beat all four levels to end world hunger.

Screenshot of the game to end world hunger, made for the hackathon

This year’s hackathon was filled with so many amazing and creative projects that honorable mentions go to Lalit, Ian, and Manit for having the most professional project. While Connor and Gabriel had the most fun project.

Virtual Hackathons Are for Everyone

As an adult, it was astounding to see the creativity and skill these projects required, but the magic was watching my own kids engage with them.

Finding out that other children created them sparked their curiosity, and they asked more questions than usual (which is a lot!).

The best part, though, was explaining that they could do something similar. That they could be a part of something that challenged them, that inspired them, and that had a meaningful outcome.

And that is the exciting part of choosing a self-directed learning journey.

Your kids can collaborate on projects that allow them to learn new skills and share their knowledge.

They can add their voice to those calling for change for a sustainable and equitable world.

If we want our kids to be change-makers, then they need to engage with the world around them and fully immerse themselves in the wonder of learning.

If this creative journey seems exciting to you, join the Free Learning Network to see what else your kids could create, too!