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Free LI hackathon for teens focuses on coding, entrepreneurship

The third TeenHacks LI event will bring together

The third TeenHacks LI event will bring together high school students interested in coding and computer science. Credit: TeenHacks LI

A free, overnight hackathon founded and run by Long Island high school students will draw hundreds of teens to the New York Institute of Technology’s campus in Old Westbury from Nov. 9 to 10.

The third TeenHacks LI event is meant to empower high school aged coders and entrepreneurs to work collaboratively to use technology to tackle real world issues, says co-founder Wesley Pergament, 17, a Jericho High School senior who created TeenHacks LI two years ago with current University of Pennsylvania student Jeffrey Yu. “We use the word hacking in terms of creating something that can benefit other people, creating something using computer science,” Pergament says. The group hopes to bring 300 students to the event, which is free, thanks to support from corporate sponsors, Pergament says.

Participants will learn computer science skills and apply them to addressing a global issue of their choice such as climate change or inequitable education; teams present their projects at the event’s conclusion. At previous events, projects have included creating a sensor to detect lead in water, a website to provide support information to homeless youths, and a chatbot to help students with autism practice their social skills, Pergament says. Participants don’t need to attend with a team or have a project in mind, Pergament says. “We have a team building workshop right after the opening ceremony,” Pergament says.

Other activities during the event will include a machine-learning workshop led by a Microsoft representative, a video game tournament, opportunities to meet engineers and a Women in STEM panel. “It’s a great opportunity for students to explore outside-the-classroom learning and learning by doing,” Pergament says.

A core group of 25 high school students has planned the November event, led by Pergament and Mount Sinai High School sophomore Snigdha Roy.

The event runs from 10 a.m. Saturday to 4 p.m. Sunday. Students typically bring their own laptop, pillow and sleeping bag; lunch and dinner Saturday and breakfast and lunch Sunday are included. For more information, visit teenhacksli.com or email team@teenhacksli.com.

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