Immigration App Wins First Hackathon

Student hackers build apps from scratch.   Photo Credit: Mr. Albert Peterson

Student hackers build apps from scratch.

Photo Credit: Mr. Albert Peterson


Ihtsham Chaudhry was a participant in the hackathon.

Student programmers competed in Midwood’s first annual hackathon on December 8, hosted by a group of teachers who wanted to encourage the pursuit of computer science related fields. Over 70 “hackers” were challenged to create an app related to social justice in under four hours. This year’s hackathon winners included Ihtsham Chaudhry ’20, Hong Wei Chen ’20, and Vasyl Llnytskyy ’20.

The idea for the school-wide competition was sparked weeks ago.

Ms. Patricia Lazo, the assistant principal of mathematics, said, “At the beginning of November, I went to a workshop from the Department of Education for schools new to computer science. Mr. [Samuel] Keener had prior experience from his middle school, and that’s where he originated the idea of a Hackathon.” 

The prizes this year were gift cards starting from $10, corresponding to the places each group won. Each group had its own coder, researcher, and presenter. 

 The coder designed the framework for the app and the user interface, while the researcher  brainstormed ideas that would be useful as an app. The presenter prepared a three minute presentation of the app with an explanation of how the app worked.

The four hour time limit presented a challenge.

“Time was definitely the biggest constraint,” said Yi ’20. “While some groups managed their time better, others weren’t able to excel under the same pressure.”

“The Hackathon was an event that gave me and my friend a fun experience in coding and making apps,” said Jeremy Maniago ’20. “I learned about how we can make apps for the betterment of our future, while simultaneously having fun and sharing ideas with other competitors.”

Chaudhry’s winning group created an immigration app that guides people through the legal process of becoming an official U.S. citizen.

Chen, his partner, said, “The app is intended to provide immigrants with all the necessary information they need to receive help and gain legal status. They can view the basics on how to attain asylum, permanent residence, and citizenship. The app also provides a list of government departments and famous law firms along with their respective addresses.”

Many groups focused on bringing justice to the social aspect of people’s lives. Yi, however, had a different approach. 

“Initially we wanted to do something involving the death penalty, but we quickly decided that climate change would be a better topic due to the fact that it affects people globally,” said Yi.

“Our app, ‘Our Planet,’ is designed to show statistics and growing trends about our earth,” he said. “It provides information on extreme weather conditions such as wind level, air pollution, and also average temperatures categorized by region. In addition, it shows the yearly trends in data, which will hopefully be useful in warning people about increasingly worsening conditions.”

Chaudhry believes that the school should have more events like the hackathon.

“The hackathon wasn’t just a fun and pleasant experience because we were able to create an app,” he said. “It was enjoyable because I got to work with my friends and compete with my colleagues. It also helped shed light on a lot of the social issues we face today, along with possible solutions.”

FeaturesCasey Levinson