Over 100 High School Students Participate in #KleinHacks

KleinHacks was Klein ISD’s First Student-led Innovation Challenge

Volunteer judges gather behind a group of students presenting their final KleinHacks project. Photos by Klein ISD Communications & Planning.

What could go wrong when you have over 100 student participants and volunteers, computers and laptops that need wifi or LAN access, and lock them in a high school for 24 hours? Evidently, nothing!

A team of juniors and seniors from Klein High School wanted to create and lead an opportunity for their peers to participate in an invention marathon. KleinHacks “aims to inspire the next generation of innovators” from the Klein ISD. There was an open invitation to any high school student who had an interest in technology and wanted to “learn, build, and share their creations over the course of a weekend in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.”

On April 21st and 22nd, Klein High hosted the inaugural KleinHacks Innovation Challenge. There were student teams representing every high school. Although there were some teams who had advanced coding skills and have created apps and websites before, there were many teams who had their first opportunity to learn about design and coding languages.

Brandt Swanson, Klein High senior and KleinHacks Marketing Specialist, shared on @KleinISD Twitter that there were many students who “didn’t even know how to code and make Alexa skills and make websites. It was really amazing to see how great our Klein kids can really just come up from basically no knowledge of coding to these great products.”

Students created games, Alexa skills, prototypes, and websites. Teams met with other groups to learn from each other and assist with the problem solving portions of their respective products. They competed in various challenges including a talent show, cup stacking, and designing an app that would help the ordering process for managers at Raising Cane’s, a sponsor of KleinHacks. Participants won prizes throughout the weekend. KleinHacks was not only an opportunity to learn but also a chance to “connect with companies and their developers throughout the event.”

During the final hour of the event, teams presented their creations to judges that included industry experts, computer science teachers, corporate sponsors, Klein High Administration, and Klein ISD Executive Directors and Teaching & Learning Team members. Many of the products were based off of real world concerns and ideas that the students were passionate about. The KleinUnited Team from Klein Forest created a website and social media accounts that would connect all five Klein high schools so that they can collaborate with each other for events. Several teams created products that would help with monitoring children behavior including a “nanny” that would sing lullabies based on how loud the baby is crying or send notifications when a child uses certain key terms. The winning team, comprised of students from Klein High and Klein Oak, created an app called “Drive Lock” — the teen driver must plug in their locked phone to the car system before Drive Lock will allow the ignition process to begin.

Debbie Pennington, Klein High Associate Principal, was the faculty mentor for the KleinHacks team and guided the student leaders throughout the process. She shares, “The students worked for many, many months on creating this event which to our knowledge was the first high school hackathon in Texas. With this being the first time that many of the students that attended had ever even heard of a Hackathon then we had no idea how it would turn out. The weekend far exceeded our expectations. So many students told us that they had no experience coding prior to the event and ended up loving it. This event would not have been possible without the support of so many from across the district as well as businesses in our area that very generously donated items.”

For more information about KleinHacks, please visit their website: https://kleinhacks.com/

KleinHacks Leadership Team:

Juan Requena (12th) — Program Director
Brandt Swanson (12th) — Marketing Specialist
Taylor Schorlemmer (12th) — Database Specialist
Kevin Mechler(12th) — Financial Coordinator
Michelle Zhang (11th) — Venue Organizer
Zain Sheikh (11th) — Volunteer Coordinator
Derick Jacquez (11th) — Volunteer Coordinator

KleinHacks Mentors:
Debbie Pennington — KHS Associate Principal
Jane Mast — KHS Secretary

Photos courtesy of Klein ISD Communications & Planning