Hack for humanity

Quinnipiac hosts fifth annual ‘Hack-a-thon’ for social good


Ian Addison

‘Hack-a-thon’ hopes to encourage girls to study in STEM fields.

Nicole McIsaac, Staff Writer

Quinnipiac University and Random Hacks of Kindness Junior Inc. held their fifth annual “Hack-a-thon” on Sunday, Feb. 2, at the Rocky Top Student Center on the York Hill campus.

This event provided Girl Scouts with an opportunity to learn how to use coding for the greater good of nonprofit organizations.

“Our organization is all about thinking of others instead of yourself,” said Patrice Gans, founder and executive director of Random Hacks of Kindness Junior Inc. “We want the kids to have fun, but we also want them to be mindful of the role that they can play in having a positive impact in somebody else’s life.”

Several nonprofit organizations teamed up for the event in hopes of teaching the girls about what they do, what their needs are and how their work impacts the community. All of the solutions that were created by the girls throughout the day will be accessible for anyone to use with no charge.

“I hope this event really taught the girls that they can use technology to aid their future in becoming strong women in a new world of technology,” said Tanisha Akinloye, founder and CEO of the Empowering Through Beauty nonprofit organization. “I think events like these are very important for girls to believe big and to be the change that the world is looking for.”

Throughout the duration of the day, female volunteers mentored on both high school and college levels, worked with the Girl Scouts to create computer applications to approach problems that local nonprofit organizations have on a daily basis. All volunteer mentors are somehow involved in technology, or even major in computer science at Quinnipiac University.

“We’ve actually had some kids and mentors go on to help the nonprofit after being involved in this program,” Gans said. “It helps the nonprofit and they get to make a connection with the community. It’s a win for everybody.”

One of the hopes for the event is that the Girl Scouts use this experience to later on become interested in the STEM field and familiarize themselves with the type of work they do.

I think this event will help me a lot in the future and I’m excited for that,” said Elsie, a Girl Scout in Troop 65424.

The program didn’t require the Girl Scouts to have any prior knowledge of coding before attending the event. Although, some girls involved have already started to show interest by having some previous experience with coding.

“We all take an hour of coding in class, and also have code week at our school,” said Bayle, a Girl Scout from Troop 10290.

The most prior teaching of coding that the girl scouts had aligned with the type of information taught at the event, but didn’t involve using realistic scenarios for the benefit of other people.

“My daughter has done coding in school and loved it, but it was nothing related to the real world like this program has them do,” said Kim Robinson, leader for Troop 10290.

“Hack-a-thon” also focuses on being a gateway to get girls involved in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) at an early age. The event emphasized that the lack of female involvement in such fields is related to the scarcity of female role models involved and a shortage in opportunities for young girls to be exposed to.

“It’s important for young girls to see that there is a place for them in STEM for their future,” Gans said.

Throughout the past couple of years, there has been a shift in female involvement in STEM. This event opens doors for young females to be introduced to that possibility.

“The truth is, change needs to happen,” Jonathan Blake, director of computer science and software engineering at Quinnipiac University said. “Change can’t happen at the college level or the high school level because it’s too late. That change needs to start at the elementary level of schooling.

Several parents vouched for their children being involved in this program due to the large technological shift in society. They believe that this program is the beginning step towards ensuring ultimate success within their children. 

“As education improves there’s more technology based learning,” said Liz Peterson, a mother of a Girl Scout in troop 65424. “By creating and having a foundation in this, I believe that it will help my daughter going forward.”

Random Hacks of Kindness Jr. Inc. plans to continue to provide children with these opportunities and encourage them to use such technology for the greater good.

“We want to keep showing that they can use technology to help others as opposed to just creating the best selling app,” Gans said.