Student Competitions

Suburban Detroit Middle Schoolers Win Hackathon

A team of middle school students from Woodhaven, MI, invented a mobile app that lets parents know more about what they're doing at school and won $15,000 for their school in the process.

The team from the Patrick Henry Middle School won the Ford STEAM Lab Challenge Hackathon held at the Ford Resource and Engagement Center in Detroit March 28, conducted by the Ford STEAM Lab, an educational program of the Ford Motor Company Fund.

Nearly 100 students from five middle schools in the Detroit metropolitan area participated in the two-day hackathon that tested their software coding skills and challenged them to produce, or "hack," an application.

The winning team from Patrick Henry created an app that allows students, parents and teachers to access their curriculum when away from the classroom, in real time, and gives parents and teachers the chance to communicate with each other one to one.

In addition to the $15,000 prize for their school, each of the five members of the team won $2,500 scholarships to use when they begin college.

The second-place team, from Detroit's Clippert Academy, built an app that helps with interactive reading comprehension with quizzes, audio assistance and e-book downloads.

Ford Motor Company Fund Multicultural Community Engagement Manager Shawn Wilson said that the students taught the company some valuable lessons as well: "Utilize existing technology, develop flexible schedules so they can continue learning on their own time and improve ways to communicate outside the classroom."

Every team in the competition was invited to attend a one-week software coding class this summer at the Henry Ford College in Dearborn, MI, during which they will build their own Android apps from scratch.

The competition, televised live on MSNBC, was judged by #YesWeCode founder Van Jones, Detroit Free Press Editorial Page Editor Stephen Henderson and MSNBC national correspondent Joy Reid.

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.