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TFS students sample all-female computer programming intensive workshop
Pulling an all-nighter, collaborating on a group project and ingesting heavy doses of caffeine served up a taste of what college could be like for two Tallulah Falls School students.
Senior Michelle Thevenin and junior Manolin Santana attended the world’s largest all-female “hackathon” – SheHacks Boston – a computer programming intensive workshop held Jan. 26-28.
The event, open to young women with any level of experience in computer science, was hosted by Boston University.
“The weekend hackathon aimed to tackle the gender gap in computer science,” said Thevenin.
“The purpose of the event was to empower young women involved in the male-dominated fields of science, technology and engineering.”
High profile corporate sponsors included PayPal, Major League Hacking, Facebook, IBM and Google among others.
The ambitious pair met many undergraduate and graduate students who attend colleges and universities throughout the United States.
Within 10 minutes of arriving, the two were invited to join a team of three college students. Two of the people on the team were graduate students at Boston University majoring in Computer Science. The third was a sophomore at Boston University, also majoring in Computer Science. “As a group, we brainstormed ideas to pursue as our project,” Santana said. “By the end of the night, we decided to create a web application for locating affordable and safe housing in the Boston area.”
To accomplish the goal, the group pulled data from Google Maps, Facebook housing groups and Zillow in order to advance the search engine. The tool combined rental listing applications from Facebook and Zillow and integrated Google Maps for easy wayfinding. The website filtered housing by crime rate, commute time, price and location. After working all hours, with no sleep in between, the group successfully met the Sunday morning deadline.
Over the hectic weekend the duo attended many workshops, including an Introduction to IOS Development by Apple Inc. Consulting Engineer Nina Kominiak.
“As high school students among hundreds of college students, the event seemed overwhelming at first but there was also a workshop for high school students where we bonded and shared our experiences,” Thevenin said. “Our favorite workshop was hosted by MIT Media Lab graduate students on robotics.”
The graduate students presented a new commercial robot known as “Jibo: The First Social Robot for the Home.” The TFS students noticed it included the same programming they had used on a video game design that recently won first place in the Georgia Regional Technology Competition. The workshop leaders then invited them to copy the URL from the game into the code for the robot, allowing the robot to interact with the video game. With this insight, the pair discovered new data that could translate to simple class projects.
“SheHacks Boston was a great learning experience for us,” Santana said. “We were able to make not only impressive connections, but amazing friends for a lifetime. We plan on dedicating everything we learned to #makingthenewnormal – a rallying cry for increasing female representation in computer programming and related fields.”
TFS senior Michelle Thevenin and junior Manolin “Mandy” Santana are shown in a photo booth after finally finishing a 30-hour computer science project.