The Hour of Code is a movement that began in 2013 with the ambitious goal of getting 10 million students coding for an hour during Computer Science Education Week in December. To date over 145 million students have participated in the Hour of Code. Many schools throughout our community have joined in the Hour of Code, setting aside an hour in their school day to give all their students an opportunity to get hands-on with coding.


Why Is Getting Students Coding So Important?

The organizers cite several reasons, including projections that show our educational system is struggling to prepare students for the jobs of the future as the number of computing jobs being created is far outpacing supply, as well as statistics that show a widening gender and diversity gap in tech. I believe there is a more fundamental reason – learning coding and computer science concepts empowers students to take control over how tech affects their lives, their culture, and their future.

Local schools have also realized the importance of coding and that is reflected in several extra-curricular programs like First Lego League and First Tech League robotics teams, Girls’ Geek Days, CoderDojo Summer Academy, Tech Camp @ STAB, KidsCollege@PVCC, Tech-Girls and Best All Around Club of Nerds. You can also find more coding and computer science happening during the school day, like the Computer Science Initiative at St. Anne’s-Belfield School. That means we now have a group of young people in our community who are ready and willing to try out their newfound coding skills in real-world situations. Hackathons provide an excellent opportunity to do just that.

What Is a Hackathon?

First off, many people associate the word “hacking” with digital breaking and entering. In computer science education, “hacking” is taking something that already exists and changing it to make something new. The availability of open source software and hardware make it possible for students to get hands on with the building blocks of tech to see what makes them tick and to modify them. Mozilla’s #teachtheweb movement and MIT’s Scratch platform are all about embracing this remix culture. For those already in tech, hackathons are growing in popularity as they offer opportunities to learn, network, recruit and pitch ideas. Weekend hackathons for students are also on the rise from 40 intercollegiate held last year to more than 150 scheduled this year. High school hackathons are a little more rare and that's why getting one going in our region is so exciting.

St. Anne's-Belfield School will host a hackathon for teens in January. This event is open to high school students throughout the region, giving them the opportunity to connect with industry experts and other students who are passionate about changing the world through technology. The “Learnathon” and “Hackathon” will be held on January 30 and 31. SPARK is free of charge to participants and includes meals, a SPARK T-shirt and an unforgettable experience. No coding experience required.

How Can You Help?

The “Learnathon” on Day One will include fun workshops and interactive presentations designed to get students’ creative juices flowing while they learn to create tech. Mentors will be on hand to help guide students through their first creation, and there will be workshop sessions where students can explore creating mobile apps, websites and hardware devices. The “Hackathon” on Day Two will allow students to collaborate on creating tech that solve real-world problems. Students can suggest an idea and form a team around it, or they can choose to work on a sponsored problem. At the end of the day, teams will present their project to a panel of judges.

With the SPARK Hackathon we really want to help students get connected to our thriving tech community. We are looking for sponsors to not only help underwrite the event, but to also suggest problems the 50 students can solve, lead workshops to teach students new tech skills and mentor teams as they work through solving problems on the way to their final project. Find more information about SPARK at and please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have any questions.


Kim Wilkens
Author: Kim WilkensWebsite:
Kim Wilkens is an activist, volunteer, writer, mentor, student and teacher who is passionate about technology, education and social justice. She is the chair of CBIC’s Tech Tour, the founder of Tech-Girls and an enthusiastic supporter of Cville Women in Tech. Kim brings her love for technology and education together as the computer science initiative coordinator at STAB.