SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- The Education Enrichment Foundation (EEF) of Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s first annual HackSPF was held on March 9, 2019 at the Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School.

HackSPF is a hackathon to support enriching computer science education among middle school students in the SPFK12 district. The 4-hour coding event was attended by 43 coders (Grades 5 to 8) and took place in a fun, relaxed atmosphere. The most significant statistic of participating coders was that 19 girls were in attendance (44%), more than doubling typical participation rates of women in hackathons.

A quarter of the hackathon attendees had little to no coding experience, and the balance of attendees had already been exposed to coding in Scratch, JavaScript, Java, and through Code.org.

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"Only three or four attending coders had already been exposed to Python. We adopted the Codesters curriculum for its unique approach to introducing Python programming language, especially for developing coders who already have some experience in visual block based programming," said Dr. Joseph Llano, EEF Trustee and HackSPF Committee Chair.

During the event, coders learned python and developed interactive programs requiring user input, and developed electronic cards, animations, games, and also returning trigonometric computations.

"It’s amazing to witness the thoughtfulness and creativity of developing coders, and what they choose to apply their programming skills towards in just a few hours" Dr. Llano continued.

The hackathon was supported by volunteer coding facilitators in the Scotch Plains-Fanwood community who are professionals in industry and computer science education, and high school students attending Academy of Information Technology and Union County Vocational - Technical High Schools.

  • Dr. Andrew Colasanti
  • Suman Dahiya-Shah
  • Julia Ellis
  • Sean Hough
  • Zoe Kekelis
  • Anamika Sadhvani
  • Suresh Srinivasan

Also supporting the program for computer science enrichment was Dr. Joan Mast, Scotch Plains Fanwood District Technology Director.

Coders took home a year's subscription of Codesters to continue learning Python programming at home, and some customary fun hackathon swag including stickers, coolers and tote bags donated by Sticker Mule and ITsavvy.

The EEF will continue to support attending coders through meetups scheduled throughout the forthcoming year. For more information on the EEF, visit www.eefofspf.org.