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Community Notebook: Palo Alto teens host public hackathon

All-day event is open to coding novices, experts alike

A group of Palo Alto High School students and alumni are organizing a free, "beginner friendly" hackathon for all local teenagers next Saturday, Nov. 19.

The all-day hackathon is a second iteration of a coding event the students organized last year, Teens Exploring Code (TEC). The event's organizers hoped to expose different demographics of Bay Area youth to the world of tech through guest speakers and computer-programming workshops led by either current or graduated computer science majors.

This year, there will be two tracks of workshops and activities -- one for beginning coders and another for advanced -- throughout the all-day hackathon, but the ultimate goal is to provide a welcoming environment for all interested teens.

"Our goal this year is the same as last year's: to provide an opportunity for teens of any and all races, genders, and socioeconomic statuses to explore computer science, which is why the event is completely free of charge and open to absolute beginners," Paly graduate Kelsey Wang and senior Alice Zhang wrote in an email. "Many hackathons seem intimidating or require previous programming experience, so we want TEC 2016 to be defined by its openness to beginners and inclusive atmosphere."

Participating teenagers with little to no programming experience can attend two introductory workshops to learn the basics of coding language Python before putting it to use in the hackathon, guided by mentors. Those with more experience can jump right in by forming teams and "collaborating on projects of their choosing," the organizing students wrote in an email.

For the more advanced students, there will also be hands-on workshops on web design and programming language Unity.

At the end of the day, participants will present their projects in a gallery walk that will also be open for parents to attend.

"For participants, there's a lot to look forward to at TEC 2016: complimentary food and gear, experienced mentors, an exciting speaker, fun activities, raffle prizes; all in all, it'll be a fun day of meeting new faces and building a fun and meaningful project," the organizing students wrote.

Any youth ages 13 to 19 years old, regardless of where they live or go to school, are welcome to attend. (Anyone out of this age range who wants to attend can contact the organizers.) Interested teens can sign up through online at teensexploringcode.org, by Monday, Nov. 14.

The event will run from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. at the Mitchell Park Community Center. Lunch and dinner will be provided.

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