Highschool Hacks 2015 – My Impressions

I got a diploma today as an expression of gratitude for my involvment in the Highschool Hacks events here in Novi Sad and I remembered that I planned to write my first blog post about that, but never got around to doing it in the end, so I guess I better do it now before my impressions fade.

What is Highschol Hacks?

Highschool Hacks is a series of local events (in no way affiliated with Paypal’s event with the same name).

Over the course of several months, teams of highschool students attend lectures on web development held by local IT professionals who also act as their mentors and help them develop an app on a given subject. This time, the subject was “online learning”. At the final event, each team had 15 minutes to present their app, and a winner was selected by the mentors. The participating teams came from all parts of Serbia, and consisted of 5-6 students.

How did it go?

I think it went great. The young people involved all learned a lot, and shown real commitment to the project, and all of them produced something nice in the end. I was slightly envious of them for having such a great learning opportunity at such an early stage. In my days, the Internet was a big mystical unknown here, very slow, very expensive, it was not in any curriculum and very few teachers knew much about it. Today, you can enroll in courses from some of the most prestigious universities in the world, and complete them at your leisure, for free. It’s such a striking difference.

Anyway, this time, the winner was the local private high school Smart from Novi Sad. You can see the difference that good funding makes in education in their case. They obviously had better guidance through the process, and their final product was the most well-rounded.

What’s the takeaway?

I think these types of events are amazing, and I think there’s room for more of them. They are usually very exhausting, and don’t pay at all,  but at the end of the day, there is a feeling of satisfaction. I feel it is a great but valuable challenge to be forced to explain some things that you and the professionals around you take for granted as common knowledge and never talk about, and do so in a way suitable for absolute beginners. It really puts your understanding of the basics to the test.

There’s talk that the government is planning to introduce computer programming in elementary schools too. This will be interesting to see and get involved in. I’ve been thinking about organizing this type of an event in my home town to give back to the community a little bit. I don’t know if the circumstances will allow, we’ll see.