Irvine Hacks 2020: city’s first high school hackathon


Zaina Shaik

CYBERSECURITY: Juniors Tiffany Sun and Emma Li debug an error in their antivirus software by writing code in the C++ language.

Helena Zhou, Staff Writer

At Irvine’s first student-run hackathon, Irvine Hacks, high school students across Southern California coded innovative projects at Redwood Code Academy on Saturday, Feb. 29. 

From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., around 60 participants collaborated in groups, designed programs and presented them to a panel of judges who assessed and ranked the projects. Meanwhile, professionals in the technology field taught HTML, CSS, Javascript and web and app development in ongoing workshops throughout the day.

“I really enjoyed Irvine Hacks’ open environment that adjusted to all the different levels of capability,” senior Johann Fernandez said. “It was a learning opportunity for everyone.”

Among the projects created were coronavirus trackers, chess simulators, physics calculators and horror video games. Fernandez, senior Arthur Jiang and juniors Emma Li, Maxwell Shih and Tiffany Sun worked together to build an antivirus software that could delete malicious activities on computers. 

“We had to get our whole team together to focus on one topic and split up tasks from there,” Shih said. “We considered which of our original ideas were achievable, and after that, we worked quickly to find a solution in the short amount of time.” 

When participants were not busy devising the front and back ends of their programs, they took breaks by playing ping-pong, creating TikToks and enjoying a surplus of Subway sandwiches and Costco pizza. 

Nonetheless, the breaks did not lessen the teams’ determination to win the prizes: Apple Airpods Pro for first place, Ultimate Ears speakers for second and HyperX gaming keyboards for third.

“A lot went into having the Airpods and the food, and one of our biggest battles was the fact that everything was interconnected,” lead organizer senior Shivani Pasricha said. “We needed members for credibility, but then we needed credibility for members. To break this barrier, we just kept persisting.” 

To provide the incredible venue, exclusive awards and expert mentors, Pasricha and senior William Hu led the Irvine Hacks board with five other leaders from Northwood’s technology clubs—seniors Anshika Agrawal, Zaina Shaik, Lisa Shi and Michael Shi and junior Lawrence Chen—to host this major event. The team began planning last summer and managed everything from their website, interest forms, venue, marketing, designs and sponsorships.

At the end of the event, participants remained energetic after the toiling day, as the closing ceremony awarded a group from Sage Hill School first place with their application that connects volunteers and organizers.

With many logistics of the event established, the board envisions Irvine Hacks to become an annual event and plans to update its board in the near future to garner more attention around technology.