AYEI’s 5th Annual Hackathon: HackAppleton

AYEI’s 5th Annual Hackathon: HackAppleton
Posted on 11/07/2022
The Appleton Youth Education Initiative (AYEI), a student-driven education non-profit based in Appleton, hosted its fifth annual “HackAppleton” computer science competition late in September.

Speaking, community events, judging, and more occurred on the weekend of September 24 and 25 through a virtual livestream after the coding period commenced virtually on September 10. Nearly 100 students from multiple states and countries participated, indicating one of the highest intensities of interest since the competition’s inception. This year’s list of AYEI’s financial and organizing partners has expanded and now includes Microsoft, Plexus, Stellar Blue Technologies, Schneider National, Forefront Dermatology, The NEW Dermatology Group, and The Academy of Martial Arts.

The AYEI’s day-to-day operations are managed by top student leaders from the Appleton Area School District, and this year’s HackAppleton edition was organized by AYEI executive officers Jack Lewis, Olivia Feng, Nadia Tallroth, Riya Butala, Umika Sivasamy, AYEI associates, and AYEI alumni Kyoungmin Lee and Paige Givens. 

AYEI was founded and is chaired by Ivan Fan, an Appleton native who received his bachelor’s degree from Yale University and, after graduation, co-authored his first U.S. patent and helped scale three technology companies. Ivan is currently on the teaching team for a class on AI ethics at UC Berkeley and he plans to begin practicing law next year at the New York office of Cooley LLP, a leading law firm in the emerging companies and venture capital space. 

AYEI enjoys the strong support of an adult advisory board, which includes community leaders like AASD Superintendent Greg Hartjes and former superintendent Judith Baseman, Miron Construction executive Edward Ruffolo, Spotify machine learning researcher Tong Zhan, Microsoft managers Greg Levenhagen and Chris Fleming, Lawrence University professor Lori Hilt, multiple current and former AASD principals including Mark McQuade and David Pynenberg, and former AYEI executive officers including Alex Fan and Kenny Fritzell. 

“HackAppleton is building the future by challenging students in computer science, teamwork, and leadership while having fun in the process. The event prepares participants for opportunities as they enter universities, build a career in business, or serve in nonprofit organizations in our community and beyond.” - Majorie Sutter, Former Learning & Development Consultant at Marjorie Sutter and Associates, LLC and AYEI Advisory Board Member

This year’s event featured Google Software Engineer Eric Alt as keynote speaker. Eric previously received his PhD in computer science from MIT and was a member of the first place team at the 2018 Boston Datathon organized by Correlation One and Citadel Securities. Other speakers included Jared Maslin, a leader and expert in the data privacy space and COO of Good Research, Shane Achterberg, Director of Innovation at Schneider National, and Sam Larsen-Disney, a UK-based senior web developer. Judges this year ranged from Jay Ramos, Agile Scrum Master at Schneider National, Amy Ziegert, an IS Manager Business Systems and Quality Assurance Analyst with Network Health, and AYEI board members Greg Levenhagen, Chris Fleming, and Tong Zhan. 

“Hands down, what stood out for me at HackAppleton was the forward-thinking challenges. Launching a privatized space mining operation is definitely the stuff of science fiction made reality, so my teammate Muntaser and I had a blast coming up with ideas. We challenged ourselves with learning new technologies and figuring out how to analyze the profitability of mining asteroids using data from NASA. I also enjoyed discussing the privacy and security implications of open datasets with workshop presenter Jared Maslin, a data privacy expert.” 
-Anita Yip, first place winner at HackAppleton 2022

Microsoft Philanthropies has supported the competition since HackAppleton’s inception back in 2018, when Microsoft Vice Chair and Appleton native Brad Smith announced the company’s philanthropic partnership with AYEI. Microsoft has consistently prioritized making innovation in the service sector more inclusive to current day economic growth around the country. A variety of Microsoft initiatives, including TechSpark, TEALS, and TitleTown Tech, a joint venture between the Green Bay Packers and Microsoft, are focused on the advancement of innovation and economic growth in the Northeastern Wisconsin region. 

HackAppleton is the first computer science competition of its kind and scale in Northeastern Wisconsin. This year, the student organizers have announced two themes for the competition: the development of technologies supporting the space resources industry and pandemic preparation. Last year, the competition drew approximately 100 students from 17 different high and middle schools from multiple states as well as Canada and Asia. This year, competition participants will have the opportunity for direct interaction with speakers and judges via Microsoft Teams and Zoom, and participants will be able to code comfortably from home.