During the week of July 1st through 5th, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) students Terence Lim and Gong Qiulu, together with alumna, Nicole Ifill, had the rare opportunity of exploring the idea of a hackathon at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village. The CMU students are visiting the Village as part of a program called, Technology Consulting in the Global Community which is directed by Professor Joseph Mertz.  The purpose of the hackathon was to provide students with the opportunity to share through the manipulation of an educational software called Alice. The software was developed by Carnegie Mellon University. Participants volunteered, received a briefing on how to use the software, then worked in groups of two or three to produce final presentations around the theme “Our dreams, our aspirations.” 

While developers in developed countries may have access to the best equipment to work on codes (and perhaps take it for granted), the students at Agahozo-Shalom do not have such privilege. For one, most of the computers available are old and slow. Nevertheless, they shared the resources they could find and dealt with the challenges they were presented with in stride. With time and dedication they came up with very interesting projects. 

Despite being given a tight schedule of only four days, participants managed to explore and learn the Alice software on their own. They planned their storyboards and programmed 3D videos to tell their stories. On the fourth day, participants presented their ideas and stories to a panel of judges, where they were judged on creativity, uniqueness, theme adherence, technical aspects and their final presentation.  Participants were not given any restrictions with regards to their methods of presentations – they could perform a skit, sing songs or even narrate alongside their 3D videos. The aspirations they shared included: healing the world, making children happy, and becoming a pilot or even an astronaut that goes to the moon! 

In the post-event feedback, many of the participants indicated interest in participating in more, similar competitions. In fact, many have since shown enthusiasm about organizing the competition themselves in the future. Most of them are also keen to share their knowledge about how to use Alice with their peers so as to get more people interested in joining future competitions. Finally, the winners were presented with a medal during the Friday evening Village Time assembly, which gave the staff and broader Agahozo-Shalom student body an opportunity to acknowledge their hard work. 

Submitted by Carnegie Mellon University student Terence Lim