Hello, I am Sarah Girard, currently a Computer Systems Engineering Technology student at STCC. I recently participated in an all-women hackathon organized by UMass, Amherst. STCC’s STEM Starter Academy advertised and encouraged me to participate in this event.

HackHer413 was a lot of fun! Over the course of 8 hours, hackathon participants were taught new technical skills, networking with sponsor company representatives, and to innovate with passion. While it was virtual due to the pandemic, it was still an amazing experience. Since this was my first time attending a hackathon, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The event took place on Hopin (an online event technology platform) and the presentation began with a warm welcome from the hosts of HackHer413 and from the Dean of Information and Computer Sciences at UMASS, Dr. Hass. Their vision is to educate the community to be responsible innovators who are prepared to solve problems by leveraging computational thinking and technology.

This hackathon was an 8-hour technology marathon where participants form teams to collaborate in creating unique programming or hardware projects to present to a panel of judges and win prizes while attending workshops and fun active learning events. We participated in interactive workshops on areas including data science, robotics, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, product management, Python and more taught by industry professionals and professors. We were provided the knowledge and skills to innovate in teams. My favorite part was the Intro to SQL Injection workshop. Here, we were shown how to inject code in SQL databases, and everyone could follow along with a pre-install VM, by choice.

I was able to participate on a team of four and try to create our own chatbot. The language was new to me, and for my other teammates which made the experience even more fun. Here we were able to collaborate our ideas and try to find any errors (believe me, we had them) in our program. There were also mentors available for any team that needed extra support. As the deadline approached, we knew we didn’t complete our project, but we were glad to have at least tried something new we all had a passion for, computer science and technology. Prizes were awarded to the winning teams who competed in the many challenges that were offered, like creating your own website, or a Chatbot, plus many more to choose from.

We were also given the opportunity to participate in a career fair, interviews with sponsor companies, networking exclusively with company representatives, and attend career development sessions and check out the awesome intern opportunities from great sponsors like The Massachusetts State Lottery, MassMutual, Citizens Bank, Liberty Mutual, Microsoft TEALS Program, and Facebook.

I will definitely be signing up for the next Hack(Her)413 event! This experience was so much fun, I can’t wait to attend another hackathon and learn newer concepts in the field of Computer Science and Technology. I thank STEM Starter Academy at STCC for encouraging and supporting my participation.