HackBI returns to Bishop Ireton for the sixth year
Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria will host its sixth annual Hackathon, HackBI, led by students for students on January 28, 2023. It is a 24-hour computer programming event where students compete in various challenges, participate in workshops and collaborate on projects that give them from the real world. The students’ projects range from game and app creation to cyber security and machine learning.
“People associate it with the 1980s idea of hacking or breaking into secure systems,” said Ireton alum and former HackBI president Christopher Johnson, now a computer science major at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and a member of UVA’s HooHacks. “But it’s not about breaking down firewalls. It’s about hacking into computer code and learning from it, and creating programs and projects that advance that knowledge and turn it into something new, while also having a bit of fun.”
HackBI was created in 2017 by Ireton students and computer science teachers to give students a chance to dive deep into the world of programming and learn to code and compete in real-world situations. Prizes for teams and individuals have ranged from board games to paid internships, but students often seem motivated by the process itself and the friendly competition. Hackathons are growing in popularity at high schools and universities across the country. Some students who attend HackBI have been to several hackathons in the past. But for most, it will be their first experience with the world of competitive programming.
HackBI is not only about coding, it is also about management. “My favorite part continues to be the impact on the students who plan, organize and run the event,” said Terri Kelly, Ireton computer science teacher and former HackBI moderator. “The management experience is invaluable. It has been encouraging to see alumni taking charge of the university’s Hackathons. From UVA to GMU to Virginia Tech, Bishop Ireton alums are leading the way.” Ireton alumni have also participated and taken home awards at hackathons at universities including Princeton and Stanford.
“I’m really looking forward to this year’s hackathon, especially since it will be the (FIRST?) full 24-hour event since Covid,” said Emily Crabtree, admin team. “Although I won’t get to experience it as a participant, I’m very excited to teach my AI/Machine Learning and App Development workshops. HackBI is a great social event where you learn and meet new people.”
Going forward, HackBI hopes to expand the hackathon to include more practical engineering aspects.
“I am excited and honored to increase my role with HackBI this year and support leaders Molly Johnson ’24 and Sergio Burneo ’23 who have the vision to continue to attract experienced hackers while reaching out to those who have never been to a hackathon let alone know what it means to ‘hack,” said this year’s moderator, Mary Briody. “They have worked hard to plan an event that honors the tradition of past hackathons while adding their own touch.”
HackBI is a free event that runs all night 28-29. January and is open to all upper secondary students. Students can sign up with a pre-existing team of friends or form a team when they arrive with the support of the HackBI team. There will be food, games, prizes, workshops and guest speakers.