Engineering students participate in annual “Hackathon”


Engineering students have spent the past few months practicing their coding skills in preparation for the RoboCop tournament. At the Hackathon, they got to further practice their skills alongside Pearson workers.

The BSM Engineering department recently held their 2017 “Hackathon.” In preparation for the upcoming RoboCup taking place in Japan this summer, students and teachers worked with employees from Pearson on coding and programming for their competitive robot.

This is not the first time BSM has hosted a Hackathon. “This marks the second year of Hackathon. Traditionally in the tech industry, a hackathon is where a bunch of nerds sit around consuming Doritos and Mountain Dew, but for our students, it’s a great opportunity to learn new material and learn from a real-world perspective,” BSM engineering department head Kirsten Hoogenakker said.

The employees from Pearson fill a void that’s crucial in the making of a competitive robot. “Coding is not a strength of the students because it’s not something that’s truly taught. We give the students an idea as to how to run the code, and kind of nding out where they are lacking and what we can do to assist,” Pearson code-developer James Henke said.

Third-year engineering students have been hard at work on the robot since the semester commenced. “Since the start [of the semester], we’ve been writing code and developing the robot that we’ll be taking to Japan. Pearson is here to check on what we have and point us in the right direction going forward. It’s very helpful to have people who know exactly what they’re doing, and who have made this into a professional career,” senior Chaz Linder said.

Having professionals onsite is both bene cial and enjoyable for students, but it’s also a new experience for Pearson employees. “I was here last year for the first Hackathon [at BSM], and I thoroughly enjoyed being here and working with the kids. Students’ creativity opens my eyes to new possibilities, and I hope I can be back next year—I wish [Hackathon] was more than just a day,” Henke said.

In late July, a group of engineering students will travel to Japan to compete in the RoboCup competition, bringing along with them the completed robot. “RoboCup is an international competition we’ll be participating in, and we’ll also be the only high school—the rest are colleges from around the world including the likes of Harvard and MIT. The specific competition we compete in is the rescue portion, where our robot has to go in and do a simulated rescue exercise,” senior Joel Ehlen said.

Having the Pearson professionals here for Hackathon will prove beneficial, I think, in our end product for RoboCup in Japan.”

— Joel Ehlen

Though it’s just seniors that will be competing in the RoboCup, getting the robot to final form is a collective effort from more than just them. “The entire engineering department is working on this robot, though the seniors are split up. It takes massive amounts of programming, so it takes all the students and both in class and before and after school time,” Hoogenakker said.

Until the end of the school year—and longer for some—students will be working to make the robot all that it can be. “The end goal is to have an autonomous robot that can perform the rescue task on its own based on the the coding and programming that we’ve put into it. Having the Pearson professionals here for Hackathon will prove beneficial, I think, in our end product for RoboCup in Japan,” Ehlen said.