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Computer science students compete in MIT Hackathon

It has been two weeks since we went to Boston to join the MIT Blueprint Hackathon competition… Amazing experience!

My computer science teacher, Mr. Lama, announced the information about the trip 2 months ago. In the first meeting, 60 students signed up as we wanted to take advantage of this trip to visit Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – a top and well-known university for engineering and technology. We applied online and 14 students were chosen to represent EF Academy at the MIT Hackathon to learn and compete with others.

We departed for Boston by bus at 2 P.M. on Friday under the supervision of Mr. Lama and Ms. Fetzer, science teachers of EF Academy. We headed toward the Marriott hotel, which is a luxurious 3-star hotel. On Friday night, we are allowed to go out to enjoy Boston. Boston welcomed us with freezing and windy weather. It is not as crowded as New York City and Boston appeals to visitors the center of academic activity with many well-known universities such as Harvard, MIT, and Boston University.

On Saturday morning, we gathered at the front lobby of the hotel and then Mr. Lama led us walk along the street. MIT is about 10 minutes walking from the Marriott hotel. We walked there to enjoy the pure and fresh air of Boston. We checked in with the students of MIT and were given T-shirts, lanyards and some cool stickers. They considerately provided us the breakfast with bread, butter, and some drinks. After the introduction to the Blueprint 2017 and its significance, EF Academy students chose to participate in the iOS workshop (they conducted 2 workshops: Web and iOS). On the first day – Learnathon, which was hosted by an excellent MIT student, we were taught the basic knowledge about how to use swift code language to build a simple tip calculator. It was so wonderful that even students who had not had the chance to interact with coding before could follow along and build ourselves a simple app for iOS. There was a team of mentors who were always willing to help us whenever we were lost or whenever our coding lines had problems. We just needed to raise our hands and they would come directly to us and guide us carefully and devotedly. As a student who learned coding for the first time, I really appreciated how much they helped me to catch up with other students. We had lunch time to enjoy pizza ordered by MIT students and it was a great time to question anything unclear to us. The afternoon continued with 2 more workshops and then we ended the day with some Tech Talks: “Machine Vision and Practical Security” and “Natural Language Processing with Python.”

Saturday was a free night for us to do whatever we wanted but it seemed like students spent time reviewing what they had learned and prepared for the competition on Sunday.

Everyone started on Sunday with an elated and highly enthusiastic feeling. We would compete today with other teams in order to win prizes. Before the competition, we were inspired by an alumna of MIT who now has become a successful entrepreneur. She had an exciting and inspirational speech about passion and how she realized her fervent craze for business. She encouraged us to try to discover ourselves as Blueprint 2017 is an awesome experience to stimulate and find potential talent in coding for high school students.

In order to join the competition, students chose a table and joined a team. We could form a team with up to 4 students. A cool thing is that you could form a team with any students from other schools or you could let the organization committee help you form a team with random students. It could be an opportunity to make new friends and share your culture with others.

Everyone took time to work under the supervision and support of mentors. In order to request helps from mentors, we needed to sign up online at go.hackmit.org/queue and they would head to our table. It was fair that everyone could get help from experienced mentors.

The submissions were due at 5:30 P.M. but we could work until the exposition at 6 P.M. The exposition judging, which we had to present our projects to judges for a few minutes in a science-fair format, lasted until 7 P.M. At 7:30 P.M., the top teams were chosen to get awards from the organization committee. There was a rookie division for people learning to build their first projects or attending their first hackathon and an experienced division for those who were experienced coders. Fortunately, there was a team from our school including seniors Jan Kamburg, Sohee Kim, and Ingunn Augdal Flovig that won the second prize and received an award.

During the afternoon, we were allowed to have a campus excursion hosted by MIT students. I felt like I was lost in a maze. MIT includes more than 20 buildings and many gardens and green spaces. It looks like a small city, having almost everything, even space for production or manufacture. MIT, with its tradition combined together with modern value, has educated many talented people who have contributed successfully and considerably to society. I feel honored that I had a precious chance to visit it.

When we arrived back at school, it was nearly midnight but I still felt really excited about what I had learned and experienced. I truly appreciate this opportunity that EF Academy gave me. A memorable trip that has stirred up my interest in applying to a computer engineering major in the future!

 

Written by Khoa Thien Le, IBY1 student from Vietnam

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