Our Chicago Hackathon on April 29 rounded out Code Nation Hackathon season! Students, volunteers, company sponsors, and community partners spent their Saturday with us at this all-day coding celebration. Our young people made new friends, created a brand new project, and walked away with a sense of pride and accomplishment. We are so grateful to Google, who generously hosted us in their Fulton Market office!

“Google is proud to partner with Code Nation year-round to provide more students with the opportunity to learn computer science—and ultimately, to access careers in tech,” said Jessica Holberg, Google Chicago’s Tech Education Outreach Lead. “Inviting students into the Google Office…was an incredible celebration of their hard work this school year and an important opportunity for students to engage directly with industry mentors.”

149 students from high schools across Chicago and 101 tech professionals were spread across two floors at Google for simultaneous competitions. Our Intro to Web Development students showed up with the right amount of nervous energy for their first-ever Hackathon! Our 2nd and 3rd-year Fellows—who are learning advanced coding at tech companies every week—brought a level of confidence and comfort that comes with more experience. All students were given the same task of building a project around the theme, Code Your Passion.

“The Code Nation Hackathon is one of my favorite sponsorships of the year,” Steven Shaw, Community Engagement Director at Verizon, said. “Not only do students demonstrate the technical skills they learn throughout the year, they work in teams to design a solution and present it before an audience including a panel of judges; this is excellent workforce training.”

In the post-event survey, 93% of students said they were satisfied with their experience at the event, and 90% of students reported that they felt more welcome in the tech community because of the Hackathon. Students and mentors had such positive reviews of the day.

The Code Your Passion theme inspired a wide variety of projects about gaming, baking, music, fitness, photography, and more. Our finalists ranged from helping users discover their passions, highlighting how to make a career out of those passions, to matching the user with the team member most like them.

The winning teams in the Intro and Fellowship programs both explored environmentalism. The winning project in the Intro competition shared how we can all do our part to fight climate change, and the Fellowship winning project outlined how to combat e-waste around the world.

In addition to our students and mentor volunteers, other members of our community—including classroom teachers, company partners, nonprofit peers, and funders—joined to see our young people coding. The energy at the event was contagious; each guest experiencing the magic that happens when we create opportunities for talented and eager high school students to work together to create a project aligned to their interests.

“EY was honored to be involved in Code Nation’s Chicago Hackathon this year as a top sponsor and as volunteers—seeing the students collaborate in such an innovative way was so inspiring!” Tim Liston, EY Corporate Responsibility Leader – US Central Region, said. We are excited to continue our work together to make the tech industry more equitable and accessible to all of Chicago’s young people, which is aligned to EY’s Bridging the Digital Divide mission.”

The Hackathon wouldn’t have been possible without our amazing company sponsors. A big thank you to: Google, Verizon, EY, Microsoft, 8th Light, IMC, Relativity, Reverb, Chime, Basis Technologies, Inspire 11, Lofty Ventures, and Objective Paradigm.

These companies are demonstrating their commitment to creating a more equitable tech industry by supporting Code Nation financially, recruiting their employees to join as technical and support volunteers, and spreading the word!

“It was such a sight to see students having a platform to display their creativity, leadership, and ingenuity during the Code Your Passion Hackathon,” Nisaini Rexach, Community Engagement Lead at Microsoft. “We are delighted to call Code Nation a grantee at Microsoft. Their commitment to create opportunities for students who are typically excluded from the digital economy is palpable.”

We couldn’t create amazing learning experiences for Chicago’s young people without a community of supporters like you! As we quickly approach the end of the school year, we’re excited to continue engaging students throughout the summer and to reach even more young Chicagoans through expanded school partnerships in the fall.

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