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Schools Participation in 30 Hour Hackathon Shows Great Potential

Four teams from three schools are vying for prizes in the 48 Hour Open Data Public Sector Hackathon, 30 hour student category held at MCMC in Cyberjaya. The top 3 will receive cash prizes of RM 3,000, RM 2,000 and RM 1,000 respectively, while the remaining one receives consolation prizes.

The Hackathon organised by MAMPU has been devised to encourage wider use of open data sets, which MAMPU makes available via www.data.gov.my. Open Data sets are public sector data made open and available for any citizen to use. It is globally regarded that a governments commitment to opening data is critical in a nations transofrmation to data driven economies. However making the data available is not enough in isolation, people must use the data for the benefit of business and society. This Hackathon showcased just how useful open data can be.

The 3 schools competing are Kolej Vokasional Sepang, The Malay College Kuala Kangsar and SMK Bandar Puteri Serting, Negeri Sembilan. While Kolej Vokasional Sepang sent 2 teams, the other schools were represented by one team consisting of 4 students in a team.

Although they were given less hours to compete due to their young age, some students felt they didn’t have enough time to complete their coding.

TMCKK who developed a travel app called ‘Foot Prints’ says they used almost 20 hours purely on coding. “We had to iron out a lot of bugs which is what took us so long to get the coding right. We only managed to complete about 80-90%”, said Amir 15. The app they said would help people look for interesting locations and distances from one destination to another. They added the open data had good content and it really helped. They were aged between 15 and 16 years.

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The two groups from Kolej Vokasional Sepang had very different ideas in creating an app for the hackathon. One was to keep track of students performance so teachers don’t have a difficult time finding out student attendance or students grade point average as currently the work is quite a task without the help of analytics.

The second group was working on an app that looks at the unemployment rate for undergraduates and determine common denominators that contribute and possibly mitigate or lower the numbers. The two groups were aged between 16 and 18.

SMK Bandar Baru Serting students idea was in statistics. Their app would help search statistics provided by the Department of Statistics Malaysia. So instead of having to go online to log in and conduct a search, one would be able to run a statistic through their mobile app.

While interviewing the students, it was apparent that they had genuine interest in coding, as affirmed their respective teachers. The students would reseach coding on their own, join or attend coding classes. The teachers who provided guidance over the course of the 30 hours, were very proud of their students achievements. When asked if the students were learning coding from the teachers, the teachers said that there was not much time to teach them as regular classes take up the time. So they go out on their own and learn.

Some schools have coding clubs where the students are able to join forces with other like-minded individuals and share interests. TMCKK has a club called Cyberbrigade with approximately 20 students. SMK Bandar Baru Serting too has a computer club with approximately 30 students.

With the recent launch of the new syllabus by the government to introduce coding into every school subject, perhaps hackathons can be a regular event carried out by every school so as to encourage critical thinking from an early age.

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