The Intrepid Museum wants to build a mobile app -- but instead of hiring digital developers, the brainstorming began with public school students. Our education reporter, Lindsey Christ, has the story:
On a deck of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on Tuesday, 225 young computer scientists worked intently.
Their goal: to come up with a rough prototype of a mobile app to serve museum visitors.
It was a hackathon - an event for techies to collaborate in solving a problem or creating something, under a tight deadline.
But in this case, the competitors were kids.
"I felt really proud of myself. And I feel like even though it's really hard, I was able to do it," said Afsana Rahman, of the Young Women's Leadership School in Astoria, Queens.
The city's Department of Education began hosting student hackathons a few years ago, but this was the largest - and most ambitious - yet. The event was part of Mayor de Blasio's $80 million initiative to get all students studying computer science citywide.
“The goal of Computer Science for All is to bring computer science to students who have been traditionally left out of computer science - girls and black and Latino students. So these are all students studying computer science in their schools and it's really representative of the city. We have schools in all five boroughs, from Brownsville to Staten Island,” said Debbie Marcus, head of computer science for the city’s Department of Education.
The students toured the Intrepid museum -- then each team had 90 minutes to develop an idea, build a prototype and prepare a pitch. Volunteers from the tech industry served as judges.
“Who is the user?" one judge asked.
"I think the user is international visitors and kids," the student replied.
"Research shows that more diverse teams are more productive, so it's not just a good idea to include everyone from a moral standpoint, it also makes good sense,” said one of the judges, Kate Edmundson, a web developer.
The Education Department wants to host more hackathons in places like the Intrepid so students can get a sense of how their computer science work could have real-world applications.
Several of the winning designs created smartphone games out of the Intrepid's exhibits.
The young hackers say they learned a lot - and not just about app development.
"I learned new things about my classmates,” said Maxwell Newlandu, a student at IS 392 in Brooklyn.
“I didn't know that Udes, for example, Udes is very good at coding. She's not just a girlie-girl make-up and nails. She's very fun to work with."