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Hackathon 2020: Make It Better

V Parker
Could you create something that might make the world better? Forty-six students took on this very challenge at St. Luke’s 6th Annual Hackathon.

Entering the school at 8:00am on Saturday, January 18, participants from 5th-12th grade spent 30 consecutive hours trying to turn their ideas into a prototype. For some, their projects required duct tape and details. For others, it was about concepts and coding. While the goal was to leave the two-day event with a product, the process of getting there—and not getting there— was where the real learning and fun happened.

“This is an experience that prepares participants for the future,” said Head of School Mark Davis. “ Students are brainstorming, collaborating, seeking advice from experts, and dealing with the frustrations of trial and error. The Hackathon builds confidence. It creates a mindset: I can build something. I may not get it right out of the gate, but I can keep trying to make it better.”

Prospector Theater Partnership

This year, St. Luke’s Hackathon partnered with the Ridgefield-based Prospector Theater. “Prospectors” (the name for its employees) mentored, observed, and connected with the Hackathon participants. Part of the theater’s mission to “use education, engagement, and employment to showcase their workers’ incredible talents, adding extraordinary value and sparkle” aligned with what we saw from our student hackers during the two-day event.

Better Hacks for the Greater Good

designLab Director Michael Mitchell has overseen St. Luke’s Hackathon since its inception six years ago. He commented on the focus students bring to their projects: “Students who return year after year are able to take previous experiences and stretch themselves as learners. They learn a little bit more each year and are able to create something that has significantly more substance. This year, specifically with our theme of making things better, they were able to do good in the world, which is something we encourage.”

Winning Hacks Included…

Each group presented their hack to a small group of judges. Tough decisions were made, and the following students were selected as winners in three categories: Upper School, Middle School, and Prospector (which was a hack specifically designed to make something better for the theater).

Upper School
First Place: Jack Briggs ‘21 and Liam Patty ‘21
Project: A motion capture system that uses machine learning algorithms to convert 2D images into a 3D virtual reality environment.

Second Place: Connor Rosow ‘20, Marco Volpitta ‘20, and Jamie Ullman ‘20
Project: A vision capture system and laser turret to shoot down mosquitoes.

Middle School
First Place: Daphne Antonioli ‘27, Cara Sato-Connell ‘27, Caroline Sproule ‘27, and Ellie Briggs ‘27
Project: The “Sparkle Wobble Cane” with a push of a button, released a mechanism that deploys a tripod at the bottom for more stability.

Second Place: Arjan Kochar ‘26
Project: An exploration of wearable technology for cricket—A device to prevent your arm from bending more than 15 degrees (which is the rule) when you bowl, and a device to calculate the speed of the bowl.

Participants: Julian LaGattuta (Saxe MS) and Evan Huang (Hommocks MS)
Project: A cash register simulation for Prospects so they could learn how to make change and then practice transactions.

Meaningful Mentorship

This signature St. Luke’s event would not have been possible without the many mentors, judges, parents, and friends of St. Luke’s who were there for some or all of the 30-hour event.

A special thanks to:
St. Luke’s alumni: Andrew Sudano ‘13 (Boeing), Tyler Klein ‘15 (Draper), Ajit Akole ‘18 (Columbia University), Logan Diliberto ‘18 (Drexel University), Clara Pakman ‘19 (Dartmouth College)

SLS faculty: Michael Mitchell, Kimberly Gerardi, Zach Brusko, Matt Bavone, Bryan DeVissiere, Sasha Mathrani, Eleanor Page, and Kate Parker-Burgard. FLIK, too, for providing much-needed nourishment.

Parent support: Anne Briggs and Meredith Pakman

Friends of St. Luke’s: Laura Miller (New Canaan Library), Ryan Wenke (Prospector), Haley Sorrells (co-worker of Tyler Klein ‘15), and Jim Paris

Stay tuned for the video: Hackathon 2020 Make It Better

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St. Luke’s School is a secular private school in New Canaan, CT for grades 5 through 12 serving 25 towns in Connecticut and New York. Our exceptional academics and diverse co-educational community foster students’ intellectual and ethical development and prepare them for top colleges. St. Luke’s Center for Leadership builds the commitment to serve and the confidence to lead.