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10 Awesome Hackathons for High School Students

Participating in hackathons can be an enriching and transformative experience for you if you have a passion for coding. Hackathons provide a platform for you to immerse themselves in hands-on coding, design, and innovation projects within a condensed timeframe, fostering a rapid and dynamic learning environment. Engaging in hackathons can also serve as an opportunity to explore specific areas of interest within computer science, from artificial intelligence to cybersecurity, allowing students to discover and deepen their passion for various technological domains.

Participation in hackathons can significantly enhance your college admissions profile. Admissions officers value the initiative and drive demonstrated by students who actively seek out opportunities to apply their knowledge in practical settings. Successful participation in hackathons showcases a student's commitment to continuous learning and a proactive approach to problem-solving. Moreover, it provides tangible evidence of a student's technical prowess, creativity, and ability to work collaboratively under tight deadlines – all qualities highly sought after in the competitive college admissions process. 

Below, we've compiled a list of 10 amazing hackathons that you should look into if you’re interested in coding, technology, or any related subjects!

Before you dive in, you might want to check out the National High School Data Science Competition!

Dates and Times: 24 hours from June 25 to June 26

Cost: Free

Location: Online

Eligibility: Any student enrolled in a higher school institution for the 2022-2023 school year is eligible to participate

Difficulty level: Intermediate

Hack3 is an immersive, two-day hackathon scheduled for a weekend in June, focusing on sustainable innovation and environmental consciousness. The event will take place virtually, allowing you to participate from anywhere in the world and providing participants with a collaborative and inspiring environment. Designed for high school students with a keen interest in both coding and environmental sustainability, Hack3 aims to challenge participants to develop innovative technological solutions addressing ecological issues. There is no registration cost for Hack3 and you will have access to workshops, mentorship sessions, and networking opportunities. Prerequisites for participation include a basic understanding of coding and a passion for environmental sustainability. The difficulty level is set at an intermediate level, ensuring that students with varying levels of coding expertise can actively engage and contribute to the development of sustainable solutions. The overarching goal of Hack3 is to foster creativity, teamwork, and a sense of responsibility toward the environment, empowering the next generation of tech enthusiasts to use their skills for positive change.

Challenge Dates: Multiple rounds with the first round ending March 15

Cost: Free

Location: Virtual

Eligibility: Must be an elementary, middle or high school student. Please check if your school has registered for the competition.

Difficulty Level: Moderate

The American Computer Science League (ACSL) is a renowned organization that conducts an array of computer science and programming competitions for students at various levels, from elementary school to high school. The ACSL competitions feature a format that challenges participants with a series of problems that span a broad range of topics in computer science, including algorithms, data structures, and software development. These problems are designed to stimulate critical thinking, creativity, and logical reasoning, and participants can submit their solutions individually or as part of a team. ACSL competitions occur multiple times throughout the year, and participants have the flexibility to choose the contests that align with their interests and skill levels. The format is structured to provide students with an engaging and educational experience that not only helps them develop strong coding skills but also prepares them for potential careers in computer science and technology.

In terms of selectivity, ACSL is generally open to a wide range of students interested in computer science and programming. 

Read through our ultimate guide to the ACSL here!

Dates and Times: October 7 at 9AM - October 8 at 11:59 PM

Cost: Free

Location: Virtual

Eligibility: Everyone is eligible to participate

Difficulty Level: Very difficult (Over 220k registrants for 10 prizes)

The NASA International Space Apps Competition is a global innovation challenge that encourages problem solvers and creative thinkers from all walks of life to collaborate and address challenges related to space exploration and Earth science. This annual event, organized by NASA, invites participants worldwide to work together on a variety of space-related projects, from developing software applications to designing hardware solutions. The competition's format typically spans a weekend, during which participants form teams and tackle specific challenges posed by NASA and its partners. These challenges encompass a wide range of topics, including space technology, Earth science, and space exploration, offering a diverse array of opportunities for participants to showcase their skills and creativity.

In terms of selectivity, the NASA International Space Apps Competition is known for its inclusivity, welcoming participants with a broad spectrum of backgrounds and skill levels. It is designed to engage a diverse community of problem solvers, including students, engineers, designers, scientists, and entrepreneurs. The competition is open to anyone interested in space exploration and technology, making it accessible to both seasoned experts and those new to the field. While the competition is not known for extreme selectivity in terms of participation, it's extremely difficult for teams to win. The teams that excel in developing innovative and impactful solutions have the chance to win accolades and recognition from NASA and its partners, showcasing their problem-solving abilities on a global stage.

Challenge Dates: Deadline of December 13

Cost: Free

Location: Virtual but if selected as a Top Team, you will be invited to the culminating event at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Eligibility: Teams may be a middle school team or a high school team. The minimum team size is 5 students and 1 Lead Teacher. There is no maximum team size. Teams must be led by a sponsor or educator (i.e., Lead Teacher) from an informal or formal U.S. education organization.

Difficulty Level: Moderate

The NASA App Development Challenge is a remarkable and highly engaging competition that invites participants to create innovative mobile applications utilizing NASA's extensive resources and data. This challenge serves as a means for NASA to harness the creativity and expertise of the wider tech community while also offering a platform for individuals and teams to showcase their programming skills and ingenuity. Participants are tasked with designing apps that address real-world problems or promote space exploration and scientific discovery. The format of the challenge typically involves several rounds of submission and evaluation, culminating in the selection of winning applications. The focus lies on creativity, functionality, and the effective use of NASA's data, making it a thrilling opportunity for developers to contribute to space science and technology.

In terms of selectivity, the NASA App Development Challenge typically attracts a diverse group of participants, including students, software developers, and tech enthusiasts from around the world. The competition encourages innovation and creativity, making it accessible to both experienced developers and those new to app development. The selection process often involves rigorous evaluation by a panel of experts who assess the functionality, utility, and originality of the submitted apps. Be sure to read through the ADC handbook for full details.

We’ve covered this contest in detail here!

Challenge Dates: Varies

Cost: Free

Location: Virtual

Challenge Dates: Varies

Eligibility: Students aged 13-17

Difficulty Level: Fair

Google Code-In is an open-source development competition tailored for young, aspiring coders and students between the ages of 13 and 17. Organized by Google, this annual event offers an opportunity for participants to engage with and contribute to various open-source organizations and projects. The competition typically spans a couple of months and provides a diverse array of tasks, including coding, documentation, design, quality assurance, and more. Participants select tasks that align with their skills and interests, and they work with experienced mentors from the open-source community to complete these tasks. Google Code-In focuses on fostering collaboration, community engagement, and the development of essential coding skills, while also nurturing a new generation of open-source contributors.

In terms of selectivity, Google Code-In is structured to be inclusive, aiming to provide opportunities for young students to become acquainted with the world of open source. It is relatively accessible to participants with varying levels of programming experience, from beginners to more advanced coders. While it may not be highly selective in terms of participation, those who excel in completing tasks and demonstrating their commitment to open source have the chance to earn various prizes, including certificates, swag, and the opportunity to become finalists and visit Google's headquarters. 

Dates and Times: A weekend in mid-September 

Cost: Free

Location: University of Pennsylvania

Eligibility: Students who are 15 or above + enrolled in or completed secondary education.

Difficulty level: Varies

PennApps, held annually at the University of Pennsylvania, stands as one of the premier hackathons, attracting bright minds from across the globe. Spanning a thrilling 48-hour coding marathon, PennApps typically takes place in late September. The hackathon emphasizes a broad spectrum of technological domains, encouraging participants to delve into diverse challenges ranging from software development and hardware integration to artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. 

PennApps boasts a reputation for excellence, drawing both seasoned hackers and those new to the coding scene. The organizers ensure a supportive atmosphere by offering mentorship, workshops, and networking sessions with industry professionals. Prerequisites are kept accessible, requiring only a fundamental understanding of coding and a passion for problem-solving. The difficulty level varies, allowing you to choose challenges that align with your skill set while encouraging you to explore new technologies. PennApps is not merely a coding competition; it's a community-driven event that nurtures creativity, collaboration, and the spirit of pushing technological boundaries. You leave not only with innovative projects but also with a network of like-minded individuals

Challenge Dates: March 2nd

Cost: Free

Location: TBA but also can be completed virtually

Eligibility: Students between the ages 13 through 18. Teams of the size of 2 to 3 people and an adult sponsor. Sponsors can be sponsors to a max of three teams. 

Difficulty Level: Moderate

HPE CodeWars is a highly competitive and engaging annual coding competition that draws the participation of high school students from across the United States. Organized by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), this event is designed to challenge and stimulate young minds in the field of computer science and programming. HPE CodeWars typically spans a full day and involves a series of coding challenges that participants must tackle individually or in teams. These challenges range in complexity, covering a wide spectrum of topics, from algorithms and data structures to software development and debugging. The competition not only fosters an environment of healthy competition but also encourages collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving, crucial skills for success in the tech industry. 

In terms of selectivity, HPE CodeWars is open to a wide range of high school students interested in coding, from those with little to no prior experience to those with advanced programming skills. While the competition features challenging problems, it is inclusive, catering to participants with varying backgrounds and skill levels. Teams and individuals compete at different levels based on their expertise, and prizes are awarded to top performers. 

Challenge Dates: One weekend in September

Cost: Free

Location: MIT’s campus

Eligibility: High School Students

Difficulty Level: Moderate

HackMIT Blueprint is an innovative and engaging hackathon-style competition hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This annual event presents a unique format that challenges participants to devise creative, practical solutions to real-world problems. Hackers at Blueprint often collaborate in small teams to design software applications, hardware solutions, or innovative technological projects over the course of a single weekend. The competition is designed to foster an environment of rapid innovation and problem-solving, encouraging participants to bring their coding, design, and engineering skills to the forefront. The format of Blueprint reflects MIT's ethos of pushing the boundaries of technology and innovation, and it offers hackers a dynamic platform to bring their ideas to life.

In terms of selectivity, HackMIT Blueprint is known for its high level of competition and selectivity. The competition typically attracts a diverse pool of participants from all over the world, including students and individuals with a broad range of coding and technology backgrounds. Due to its reputation and the high caliber of participants, gaining entry to the event can be competitive. Blueprint organizers often evaluate applications based on participants' experience, project ideas, and demonstrated technical skills. While the competition is selective in terms of admissions, it fosters a spirit of collaboration and learning, allowing participants to showcase their talents and innovate alongside like-minded individuals who share a passion for technology and creativity. 

Location: Stanford’s campus

Cost: Free

Prize: Variety of Prizes offered, TBA. Previous years have included Raspberry pis, Nintendo 3DSes and Ipad minis. 

Challenge Dates: Mid-April

Registration Deadline: March

Eligibility: High School Students in the Bay Area, teams of max three people

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Stanford ACM's ProCo competition for high school students is an exceptional opportunity for young coding enthusiasts to test their problem-solving and programming skills in a challenging and intellectually stimulating environment. The format of ProCo typically involves a series of coding problems and challenges that participants must tackle within a specified time frame. High school students, either as individuals or in teams, can participate in this competition, giving them a chance to work collaboratively and demonstrate their coding skills. The problems presented in ProCo span various computer science domains, covering topics like algorithms, data structures, and software development. This competition not only provides a platform for high school students to apply their coding knowledge but also encourages the development of critical thinking and innovation as they seek creative solutions to complex problems.

Winning ProCo as a high school participant is a significant achievement and can serve as a testament to one's coding skills and problem-solving abilities. The selectivity underscores the competition's importance in providing a platform for talented young coders to showcase their abilities and engage with like-minded peers in a supportive and competitive atmosphere.

Dates and Times: A weekend in February

Cost: Free

Location: NYU’s Brooklyn campus

Eligibility: Anyone 18 or older is suggested to apply and high schoolers over the age of 16 may apply with a guardian's permission!

Difficulty level: Intermediate

HackNYU, an annual hackathon hosted by New York University, stands as a beacon of creativity and collaboration in the heart of New York City. Typically occurring in late February, this 48-hour coding extravaganza brings together a diverse group of students from various disciplines and skill sets.

HackNYU encompasses a wide array of challenges spanning software development, hardware innovation, and social impact projects. The hackathon places a strong emphasis on mentorship, providing participants with the opportunity to connect with industry professionals and experienced hackers. Prerequisites are kept flexible, making the event welcoming to both seasoned coders and those just beginning their coding journey. The difficulty level ranges from beginner-friendly challenges to advanced projects, ensuring that every participant finds a suitable avenue for exploration. Beyond the coding realm, HackNYU also features workshops, networking sessions, and collaborative spaces, transforming the event into a holistic experience that transcends traditional hackathons. Participants not only leave with innovative projects but also with a newfound sense of community and a network of like-minded individuals, ready to tackle future technological challenges.

Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you’re looking for another way to enhance your college applications, you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.

Jessica attends Harvard University where she studies Neuroscience and Computer Science as a Coca-Cola, Elks, and Albert Shankar Scholar. She is passionate about educational equity and hopes to one day combine this with her academic interests via social entrepreneurship. Outside of academics, she enjoys taking walks, listening to music, and running her jewelry business! 

Image Source: NASA logo



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