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Education Station: Cleveland to host annual 'Hackathon' mobile app competition for first time

TECH CORPS' 'Hackathon' competition teaches 9th through 12th grade students to code and create an app that solves a real-world problem.

CLEVELAND — "It’s a way for you to network with people, meet new people and sharpen your skills on either coding or whatever project you’re assigned."

18-year-old Warrensville Heights senior Antonio Wright will be competing in this year’s Hackathon. The lifelong tech enthusiast has been dabbling in coding lately to prepare.

"When you see lines of code, people’s first instinct is 'Oh, he’s hacking.' But with technology, there are endless realms of creativity and it allows your brain to just flood out with it," says Wright.

Columbus-based nonprofit TECH CORPS is bringing its yearly coding competition to Cleveland for the first time, and Antonio will be one of 50 kids to compete. 9th through 12th graders will build their own mobile apps and try to change the world at the same time. 

At last year’s Hackathon, held in Akron, a team built a mobile app surrounding mental illness, and the foursome - made up of students from Akron, Copley and Cleveland - won! Oberlin graduate Marcala Moore was the team’s mentor.

"It was a hotline, and it had a chat room and it had access to online therapists, and it had, like, a crisis line," says Moore.

TECH CORPS started its Hackathon mobile app competition six years ago. The organization gives students - typically underrepresented in the technology field - free, hands-on, tech-based experiences that are fun! Cleveland-area 9th thru 12th graders will spend an entire Saturday learning to code and create an app.

"Then we’ll break them off into teams and together they’ll come up with an idea that’ll help the community," says Moore.

Each team designs a mobile app from start to finish that helps solve a real-world problem - like mental illness, poverty or homelessness.

Antonio is confident about competing, but not about the close of competition.

"It's a little intimidating. Towards the end, you gotta present your app, and I’m not a really good presenter."

After the apps are presented to a panel of technology experts, a winner is chosen. If the app is marketable, it can be purchased, and the buyer could turn it into a working app. 

"Students now are the future and can help change the world," says Wright.

KeyBank and CoverMyMeds helped TECH CORPS put on this year’s Hackathon, which will pay out $200 to each member of the winning team! The Hackathon competition is Saturday November 12th from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. at Tri-C Eastern. It’s free to compete. 9th thru 12th graders from CMSD and East Cleveland are especially encouraged to sign up, and tech-savvy volunteers are also needed. 

Students and volunteers can register HERE.

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