Students Code Up a Storm at the SEP Arcade Hackathon

Hackers are busy coding their games

On May 30th, 75 middle and high schoolers gathered at the Downtown Community Television Center in Chinatown to take part in SEP’s daylong arcade-themed hackathon. The challenge: to design a game using Gamestar Mechanic, Processing, Python, or Scratch. The event, made possible though generous support from the AT&T Foundation, invited 20 schools across all 5 boroughs to participate. This included 18 SEP schools, the Academy for Software Engineering, and the Bronx Academy for Software Engineering. With so many schools under one roof, students relished in the opportunity to code both with old friends as well as new faces. One hackathon participant, Ralph McKee student Abubakkar, reflected, “There are plenty of people out there that share my interests.”

SEP Director Don Miller kicked off the hackathon with a quick review of the essential game design principles—space, components, mechanics, rules, and goals—all which students carefully considered while developing their projects. After students completed brainstorming, prototyping, and an initial coding session, they spent a portion of the day playing and evaluating each other’s games. Talking about his favorite part of the day, another event participant, Joseph from Mark Twain I.S. 239, said he had the most fun “sharing my thoughts on other teams’ games … and finding all of the glitches in their alpha versions!” A second, final coding session followed the feedback segment, where students had a chance to both polish and improve their games based on their peers’ comments.

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At the end of the day, 19 teams presented their projects to a panel of professional game designers. Five of them were awarded packs of best-seller board games in categories including Most Educational, Most Complex, and Judge’s Choice. Game highlights included team Madmen developed a game called More or Less, in which players competed to move to the center of a 10×10 board made of pluses and minuses. Another game, X-ing Road, designed by team Master Hackers, addressed street safety as the character’s main objective was to safely cross 150 roads using rules given.

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