The fourth annual Los Altos Hacks is set for March 23 and 24 in the Juniper Aspiration Dome, 1081 Innovation Way, Sunnyvale.
Organized by a team of Los Altos High School students, the hackathon offers an environment for high school coders of all levels – and from all schools – to pursue an idea for 24 hours under the guidance of workshops and mentors. Last year, it hosted 331 students. The experience is free for those accepted.
“Something is super empowering about … being able to work on something from start to finish over a long time,” said senior Jamsheed Mistri, lead and sponsorship director.
Over the two days, students break into teams and code through the night to create iOS, Android and web projects. The idea is to problem-solve in a short amount of time – “hacking at a solution,” noted junior Kat Nasif, outreach director. The time is broken up with meals, workshops, activities and games. The next morning, panelists will judge the projects and determine winners in nine categories.
“It’s an awesome opportunity to experience something you’re not going to get out of your typical high school experience,” Nasif said. “In these hackathons, we like to emphasize the project. In the real world, it’s all about what you can make, what can you do and what have you made.”
The event’s mission is to encourage students to pursue STEM careers, particularly students from minority and low-income groups. Through its four-year history, Los Altos Hacks organizers have strived for a 50-50 gender ratio among participants, according to Mistri.
“The STEM stereotype is very cookie-cutter,” Nasif said. “And here at Los Altos Hacks, we want to diversify the field in a way. By reaching out to people of color and people of different socioeconomic backgrounds, we can show them that the tech industry is an option for them.”
Los Altos Hacks also offers workshops by industry professionals from Gigamon and VMware; a team of adult mentors will be present to help those with little to no experience in coding.
While most of the participants have been from local schools, this year’s event may bring in students from farther away. Organizers are offering a limited number of travel stipends to students from around the world.
The hackathon is primarily for high school students, but some exceptions may be made for middle schoolers who would also like to apply; they are asked to email the organizers.
The deadline to apply for Los Altos Hacks is March 20, though organizers said it may be extended.