Crossroads News

Crossroads Hackathon Encourages Creativity and Collaboration

Upper School students flexed their computer science skills, developing solutions to educational issues.
On Saturday, May 4, in partnership with Crossroads’ Equity & Justice Institute and the Alumni Relations Office, the Upper School hosted its fourth annual Teen Tech Hackathon. The day-long event celebrated collaborative learning with students from eight local high schools working in small groups to problem solve, design and prototype technology solutions around a specific topic. This year’s theme, “Education for All,” was chosen by the event co-chairs—senior Joshua Huang and juniors Sophie Ma and Cian Ormond—who assisted Computer Science teacher Paul Way in planning the event.

“Education is something that we all have experience with because we're students,” said Sophie. Added Josh: “We wanted something that would reach other people, too. Through Covid, we saw another side of online learning that could be implemented in a whole bunch of different schools. There are a lot of places where it's hard to access education.”

To kick off the event, former LAUSD teacher Gabriella Barbosa ’04 contextualized the issue by sharing her work as a lawyer and advocate for marginalized communities. Students discussed barriers to education including access in rural areas, language and learning differences, lack of arts programming, and tutoring and educational support. 

Students then attended computer science and coding workshops featuring guest speakers including programmers and engineers from Google, Boeing and Snap, before breaking out into small groups and brainstorming project ideas. They soon got to work coming up with ideas for apps, websites and browser extensions that addressed pressing educational issues.

Pitches included:
    • An app that connects student drivers and passengers on their way to school. 
    • A website and chat portal that used AI-generated responses to address commonly asked mental health questions. 
    • A coding platform that translates English-based coding into other languages. 
    • A website that addressed the needs of both teachers and students by allowing users to sort educational videos and lesson plans based on language preference and learning style. 
    • A browser extension that tackled media literacy issues by fact-checking content as a way to combat misinformation on the internet. 
    • A tutoring platform that allows users to access affordable tutoring that takes into account learning differences and language barriers. 
After several hours designing and prototyping, students convened in the library to pitch their solutions to a panel of judges:
    • Crossroads Middle School Technology Coordinator and Teacher Brandy Friedlander
    • Crossroads Upper School Science Teacher Christopher Buckley
    • Sierra Canyon Computer Science Department Chair and Upper School Faculty Member J.D. DeVaughn-Brown 
    • Jon Cebulski, IT systems engineer, Boeing
    • Jeremy Deutsch, software engineer, Google
    • Jack Sadoff ’17, software engineer, Verkada
    • Stephan Shapiro, mechanical engineer and robotics educator
    • Matthew Shaw, software engineer, Google
    • Peter Brook, senior engineering manager, Snap Inc. 
Panelists were joined by special guest judge and Crossroads trustee Dr. Erin Simon ’95, who serves as associate superintendent for the LA County Office of Education. The judges presented awards for technical achievement, entrepreneurship and social good. Prizes included tours of Snap Inc., GoodRx and Google campuses. 

As students gathered for a group photo, the judges and event organizers took a minute to acknowledge the thoughtfulness and creativity of each of the student pitches. 

“One of the best things we do at Crossroads is have students engage with real world problems,” said Paul. 

It’s clear—with these students at the helm, our future is bright.