AYEI 3rd Annual HackAppleton Shifts Virtual
to Empower Students to Address the Impacts of COVID-19
By Team HackAppleton, AYEI
On Sunday, June 14th, the Appleton Youth Education Initiative (AYEI) hosted its third annual HackAppleton event virtually on Microsoft Teams.
As the modern economy becomes increasingly propelled by the data-driven and other computational technologies, gaining experience in computer science has become paramount, regardless of occupation. Two years ago, the AYEI envisioned an event where Wisconsin middle and high school students could gain this exposure to the expansive world of computer science. Students from across Wisconsin would form teams and within eight short hours create a software project to address a complex problem statement. The social importance of solving the problems would draw competitors with a multitude of diverse skill sets to collaborate, thereby leading students to both broaden and sharpen their skills, expanding the competition beyond solely coders, and ensuring that all participants gain from the event - regardless of existing abilities. With the patronage of Brad Smith, the president of Microsoft, and the partnership of Microsoft Philanthropies, the AYEI hosted its first annual Hackathon in 2018.
In early March of this year, the HackAppleton team grappled with the prospect that an in-person Hackathon might be inadvisable on account of COVID-19. As the situation escalated by April, cancellation increasingly seemed like the only viable option. However, in light of the remarkable engagement with the program in previous years, the team did not want to deprive the students of 2020 of this unique opportunity to engage with the computer science community at such a young age.
The team consisted of the 2019-2020 administration of the AYEI Executive Board, under the leadership of President Manish Raj, Vice-President Tracy Wang, Treasurer Paige Givens, Secretary Maya Ruffolo, and Chief of Technology Danielle Zheng. The team worked under the guidance of the AYEI Advisory Board, a body of prominent community leaders including Judy Baseman, Alex Fan, Ivan Fan, Chris Fleming, Ken Fritzell, Greg Hartjes, Lori Hilt, Gayle Kagen, Greg Levenhagen, Mark McQuade, Matthew Mineau, Rita O'brien, David Pynenberg, Edward Ruffolo, Marjorie Sutter, Thai Xiong, and Tong Zhan.
Under the recommendation of the Advisory Board, the team elected to reschedule the event to June 14th, and in the three month interim organized and hosted the event virtually using Microsoft Teams. Although the online format represented uncharted territory for the team and presented a host of novel challenges ranging from marketing to logistics, Microsoft Teams provided the optimal environment for participants to collaborate in groups and for those groups to participate in full event activities. Ultimately, the third-annual HackAppleton drew teams of three or four students from 21 different schools from Wisconsin and beyond. Schools represented included Appleton North High School, Appleton West High School, Ashwaubenon High School, Brillion Middle School, Fairfax High School, Fox Valley Lutheran High School, High School of Health Sciences, Hortonville High School, Kimberly High School, Leonardo da Vinci School for Gifted Learners, Luxemburg-Casco High School, Neenah High School, Nicolet High School, Oak Creek High School, Odyssey/Magellan Magnet School, Ripon High School, Ripon Middle School, Robert Bateman Secondary School, South Milwaukee High School, Tesla Engineering Charter School, and Wisconsin Hills Middle School.
“As a sophomore two years ago at the first Hackathon we hosted, I never would have foreseen today: expanding the competition beyond Wisconsin as well as having the event online,” said AYEI Vice-President Tracy Wang. The AYEI believes that HackAppleton 2020 will serve as a great antecedent for future hybrid online/offline events where students will have the ability to participate from locations all over the United States.
One of the keystones of HackAppleton is the fact that students from all across the state are able to network with like-minded individuals, bonding over their mutual passions for computer science. In order to preserve this aspect, the team arranged for ‘virtual lunchrooms’ where participants were able to socialize with one another through chaperone facilitated games and discussions.
Amid the widespread, disruptive phenomenon of COVID-19, technology has been an important source of constancy, being the main medium of industry, recreation, and safety. As expressed by Manish Raj, the President of the AYEI, “technology has the unique power to amplify human ability; one kind act by a high schooler can profoundly influence thousands of lives globally. We’ve seen this principle in action time and time again when it comes to mitigating and remedying the impacts of COVID19. Even our basic understanding of the virus and its potential antibodies is derived from computational analysis and modeling.” HackAppleton participants were challenged to ‘apply their knowledge, technical skills, and creativity to create a software project that can effectively redress an issue that was either created or worsened by COVID-19’. Issues of focus included technological disparities, Zoom fatigue, the speed of vaccine development, and disadvantaged minorities.
Participants' solutions were evaluated based on their utility, design, and engineering by a distinguished group of judges: Jay Ramos, the Schneider Web Team Technical Lead; Tong Zhan, the Torus Capital CIO and Correlation One Head of Technical Product, Chris Fleming, a Microsoft Data Product Solutions Architect; and Tyler Hoffman, a Stellar Blue Project Strategist. As a testament to how impressive all the submissions were, the judges all agreed that choosing amongst the large number of quality submissions in order to assign awards was a tall task.
While their submissions were being assessed, participants heard from inspiring industry professionals and community leaders. The keynote speaker Matt Adamczyk, the TitleTown Tech Technologist in Residence, opened the event. Edward Ruffolo, the Miron Construction IT Manager began the afternoon speaker sessions, followed by Tara Anderson, a Microsoft Enterprise Account Manager. Following Tara Anderson was Adam Luebke, a Microsoft Field Engineer. Shane Achterberg, the Schneider National Innovation Manager spoke next. Finally, Ivan Fan, the AYEI Founder and Chairman, closed the speaker sessions. Not only did the participants hear from the speakers, but they had the opportunity to interact with them through question and answer sessions.
The event closed with prizes being awarded. Divyasree Chintamani, Ashley Vermeulen, Lindsey Vermeulen, and Mandeep Kaleka from Appleton North and Appleton West earned Most Creative and each received a Google Home Mini. Appleton North’s Siri Lokensgard earned Best Documented as a team of one and also received a Google Home Mini. 3rd Place Overall and Amazon Echo Shows were awarded to Luigj Ndoja, Morgan Brevard, and Umika Sivasamy, students from Robert Bateman Secondary School, High School of Health Sciences, and Appleton North High School respectively. 2nd Place Overall and DJI Tello Drones were awarded to Daniel Guilette, Issac Yang, Donglai Duan, and Jacob Farrell from Kimberly High School. The most prestigious award of the day, 1st Place Overall and XBox Ones, was awarded to Naveen Balu and Jayanth Balu from Ashwaubenon High School. These incredible prizes, totaling to $2,000, were made possible by the generous contributions of the HackAppleton 2020 sponsors: Microsoft, Appleton Area School District, Titletown Tech, Stellar Blue Technologies, Schneider National, Miron Construction, and Festival Foods. The video component of the winners’ and other participants’ submissions and can be viewed on the Appleton Youth Education Initiative Youtube channel.
HackAppleton is just one of the many programs organized by the AYEI: since 2009, these have included a free ACT/SAT prep class taught by students, Philharmonic Ventures for the musically inclined, and the Fox Cities Book Drive, a system of book exchange including AP/ACT/PSAT/SAT books, all free of charge. The student-driven non-profit is constantly looking for more ways to provide educational opportunities to the youth in their community. For instance, the HackAppleton event acted as a catalyst for announcing the launch of a new program called the AYEI Technology & Research clinic. Starting this fall, the clinic will provide opportunities for students interested in the tech world to perform pro-bono work for top-notch professionals in the industry.
The passionate efforts of the students and the community leaders in organizing HackAppleton reflects the resilience of the AYEI and Wisconsin youth in the face of adversity. Three seniors will graduate from the organization this year - this September, Manish Raj will be studying computer science, economics, and sustainability at Stanford University, Tracy Wang will study pre-pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, and Jack Hammerton plans on pursuing a major in economics at Marquette University. They were glad that their last HackAppleton was a success despite the constraints that the pandemic created and the unusual circumstances of having to execute a remote event online. Regardless of how society continues to be impacted by the pandemic, the AYEI is confident that it will do its part in finding and delivering innovative and engaging educational solutions for students in Wisconsin and beyond.
For more information about the HackAppleton event, please visit the HackAppleton website. For information about the Appleton Youth Education Initiative, please visit the AYEI website. Additionally,consider following AYEI on Twitter (AYEIOfficial),Facebook (AYEIOfficial), Youtube (Appleton Youth Education Initiative), Instagram (ayeiofficial), and LinkedIn (Appleton Youth Education Initiative) for regular updates.
MEDIA CONTACTS: Maya Ruffolo, Director of Public Relations firstname.lastname@example.org Manish Raj, President email@example.com Tracy Wang, Vice President firstname.lastname@example.org AYEI General email@example.com
Press Release, April 19, 2020
P.O. Box 804 Appleton, WI 54912
AYEI Responds to COVID-19; HackAppleton 2020 to be organized on Microsoft Teams
By Ivan Fan
To the friends of the AYEI,
For over a decade, the Appleton Youth Education Initiative has been a leader in fostering innovation in education. Today, as we face the new realities of a post COVID-19 world, it is crucial that we work together to protect one another and to address COVID-19’s impact on Wisconsin youth.
The health and well-being of the Fox Valley and our broader Wisconsin community members is always our highest priority. Last month, in light of the developing pandemic, the AYEI Board decided to postpone our Spring 2020 HackAppleton event.
We are pleased to announce that with the support of our partners at Microsoft, Miron Construction, Schneider National, TitleTown Tech, the Appleton Area School District, Festival Foods, and others, we plan to move forward with organizing a virtual version of HackAppleton on Microsoft Teams on June 14, 2020. Each of us must do our part, and our students believe that there is so much innovative potential amongst Wisconsin youth available to help defeat this virus.
The theme of this year’s HackAppleton will be around building technological solutions to tackle COVID-19 and to address its public health, economic, and cultural consequences. Participants of HackAppleton will develop software, use AI, and build digital capabilities which can help address some of the unprecedented challenges to our health system, supply chains, and access to accurate information.
COVID-19 has revealed weaknesses in our society’s pre-crisis consumption model and it is amplifying socioeconomic disparities in our own community and in communities all over the world. It is imperative that we learn from this experience and grow more sophisticated and empathetic in how we design systems of governance. We are all in this together, and we must do all that we can to support the governments and businesses essential to jumpstarting our society and economy.
If we work together to innovate and fight this virus, we will emerge a stronger, smarter, and kinder society. It is crucial that we do our part to rally our community here in Wisconsin and defeat COVID-19, and we remain steadfast in our mission to prepare Wisconsin youth for the opportunities and challenges of life post-secondary education. Our resolve to link students to growth for the future has never been stronger.
We at the initiative thank you for your resilience and unwavering support during these challenging and uncertain times. We remain committed to innovating on behalf of Wisconsin youth, and we look forward to seeing you all this summer at HackAppleton 2020.
Press Release, February 25, 2020
P.O. Box 804 Appleton, WI 54912
Microsoft Sponsors Appleton Youth Education Initiative to Organize third annual “HackAppleton” Coding Competition
By Umika Sivasamy and Tracy Wang
The Appleton Youth Education Initiative (AYEI), a student-driven education non-profit organization founded in 2008, will host its third annual “HackAppleton” programming competition on April 19th from 9am to 6pm at the offices of Miron Construction.
Microsoft has sponsored the competition since the competition’s inception in 2018, when Microsoft president and Appleton native Brad Smith announced the company’s philanthropic partnership with AYEI. Microsoft has made innovation in service of more inclusive economic growth around the country a priority for the company. Various Microsoft Philanthropies programs, including TechSpark, TEALS, and TitleTown Tech, a joint venture between the Green Bay Packers and Microsoft, have made the advancement of innovation and economic growth in the Northeastern Wisconsin region a key priority.
The Appleton Youth Education Initiative was founded by Ivan Fan, a Yale and Berkeley-educated technology entrepreneur and 2010 graduate of Appleton North High School. Its day to day operations are managed by top student leaders from the AASD and other surrounding school districts, and it enjoys the strong support of a twelve member adult advisory board which includes community leaders such as AASD Superintendent Judith Baseman, distinguished community philanthropist Gayle Kagen, and others.
“HackAppleton represents the alignment of business, non-profit, and student interests in making Wisconsin one of the best places for young people to develop foundational STEM skills.” - Edward Ruffalo, Director of IT at Miron Construction and Board of Directors, AYEI.
HackAppleton is the first computer science competition of its kind and scale in Northeastern Wisconsin. Last year, the competition drew approximately 100 students from 17 different high and middle schools from multiple districts in the state. This year’s hackathon will be business themed, and participating teams will design and develop software that benefits a local business.
“Attending this event means you’ll gain exposure to tech companies as well as valuable experience with what it’s like to work with a team in the field — all in addition to the prizes worth thousands you’ll be competing for.” - Greg Levenhagen, Microsoft Regional Director and Board of Directors, AYEI.After students finish the coding portion of the event, a distinguished judging panel of technology engineers, scientists, and executives will identify and rank the three winning teams. While they await the results, attendees will hear from feature speakers and panels about various topics related to the technology world. Speakers in previous years have hailed from institutions including Schneider National, Stellar Blue Technologies, and the AASD. At least three representatives of Microsoft are slated to speak at the event, including Matt Adamczyk, Tara Anderson, and Adam Luebke. Ms. Anderson and Mr. Luebke will each speak on topics related to Microsoft’s enterprise and engineering operations. Mr. Adamczyk, technologist in residence at TitleTown Tech, will speak about the work of the new $10 million dollar center as well as ways to get involved in startups right here in Wisconsin. The speeches will be open to the public.
In previous years, winning student teams have won prize combinations of cash, X-boxes, drones, and other devices including Microsoft Surface Pros and Raspberry Pis. Previous programming experience or technical expertise is helpful but not required, and students can sign up to participate in the competition at the following link: https://forms.gle/EueT8D8ota3XcSmB6. At least one member of each team must bring a laptop, and while a few additional laptops will be available on site, their use will be limited to troubleshooting and support.
“Every entrepreneur and student in Wisconsin has the potential to become the next Bill Gates or Brad Smith. We are proud to partner with our friends at Microsoft, and we are thrilled to advance innovation and economic growth right here in Wisconsin.” - Ivan Fan
For general information about the HackAppleton event, please visit HackAppleton.org. For information about the Appleton Youth Education Initiative, please visit ayeinitiative.org and follow @AYEIOfficial on Twitter. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for any other questions specifically related to the HackAppleton event.