Pipeline Program’s Summer Starts with One-day HACK-A-THON

Mingling fun and learning, 36  students participating in MEC’s Pipeline Program summer kickoff last Thursday created websites devoted to  basketball, video games, anime, music, and more at a one-day HACK-A-THON.

The students, ages 11-18 and in grades 5-11, dived into the world of computer science technology. Whether newly acquired or simply sharpened, those skills allowed students to build their own website over the course of a day.

The Pipeline students, from underserved Central Brooklyn neighborhoods, are guided through a strong K-12 experience, transitioned into college, and provided high-quality opportunities to enter the professional world.  Parents and educators also receive training and support.

Dr. Shanna Van Ness, a co-director of the Pipeline program, said the HACK-A-THON was meant to be much more than just fun. “We’re making the connection with college readiness,” she said.

Dr. Doris McEwen, the College’s interim Dean of College Readiness, noted that MEC uses all the summer Pipeline initiatives to connect the dots between skills acquired in a summer camp environment and the skills needed for higher education.

Under her purview, Pipeline has become more closely aligned with other MEC pre-college initiatives: College Now, Smart Scholars, as well as the School of Education and the School of Community and Professional Development.

A volunteer organization called CodeEd provided the HACK-A-THON training. CodeEd seeks to increase computer science offerings in underserved communities by providing free computer science experiences in schools and after-school programs. CodeEd is especially focused on closing the gender gap in computer coding.

Carey Tan, the executive director of CodeEd and the HACK-A-THON teacher, said that CodeEd reached out to the office of New York State Senator Jesse Hamilton to sponsor the event.  New York City Councilmembers Laurie Cumbo and Inez Barron also supported the project.

“I encouraged the students to make their websites reflections of their unique selves and their interests,” Ms. Tan said.

 “I knew some stuff,” said coder Kaidyan Harris, 14, who will be a freshman in September at Harvest Collegiate High School. “It was fun to learn some new stuff and the get the chance to make my own website.” His website featured Russell Westbrook, a basketball player with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“I like to code because it makes me happy,” said Amanuel Williams, 13, who will be a freshman this Fall at the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice.

After lunch, a very important guest came to view the websites in progress. Students were impressed when the guest was introduced as none other than Dr. Rudolph F. Crew, the MEC President.

“There is a whole lot connected to your knowledge about this,” Dr. Crew said as he peered at the screens and asked questions. He told the students that learning coding was a skill that they could use to start a business or to get a job.      

The Pipeline schools participating in the Hack-A-Thon included P.S. 181, M.S. 2, M.S. 61, Brownsville Ascend Middle School, High School for Global Citizenship and Medgar Evers College Preparatory High School.