Editor’s Note: Guest author Andrew Stillman is a teacher who works at New Visions for Public Schools, a non-profit that provides direct support services to 76 New York City high schools. — Arun Nagarajan
On March 16th, as a green tide tide of college students flowed into Manhattan for a day of rousing revelry, more than 50 young coders from New York-area computer science programs and 30 teachers were drawn instead to Kean University in New Jersey by the gravity of St. Hacktrick’s Day, our first Apps Script for EDU Codeathon. Inspired by the viral popularity of the Flubaroo, Doctopus, and autoCrat scripts for teachers, St. Hacktrick’s Day aimed to pair coders with educators to produce more free, smart tools for education.
Most of the student scripters were on their first day of spring break, making our huge turnout for this event all the more remarkable. Product designers — all working educators who took time out on a Saturday — traveled from as far north as Ulster County, NY and as far south as Virginia, while we had others who joined teams via G+ Hangouts from Singapore, Montreal, Vancouver, and London.
Unlike a typical hackathon, teams weren’t simply building their own ideas — instead, to ensure their scripts would be truly useful in the classroom, we solicited project proposals through a Google Moderator board. By the day of the event, we had 48 ideas with 187 votes from educators around the world.
In all, 17 teams built demo-ready prototypes in less than 6 hours of coding. The Apps Script team rounded up a few Nexus 7 tablets for the winners below and invited them to present their projects to the Google Docs engineering team:
Popular vote: Picture Prompt Generator
Summary: Inserts kid-friendly pictures from Google Image Search into student documents. Elementary students then write stories based on the visual prompts.
Design: Daniel Scibienski
Code: Ashish Nandwani and Krutika Shah
Judges' choice: Plagiarism Detector
Summary: Uses a similarity algorithm to rank Google Documents by originality.
Design and code: Alice Lin, Basim Baig, and Jackie Wei (Stony Brook University)
Judges' choice: Unpivot Google Form Data
Summary: Removes duplicates from Google Form data and transforms it for use in a pivot table.
Design: Ron Turchyniak
Code: Andrew Ireland, Sangwook Lee, and Steve Byung Park (Stony Brook University)
Teams have been asked to open-source their code and donate it to New Visions for Public Schools, the support organization I work for, and to consider improving their projects for use by educators everywhere. We’ll keep you posted as these resources become available.
Big thanks to our participants, to organizers Meredith Martin, Dave Zirkle, Daniel Scibienski, Emily Graves, Diana Potts, Lisa Thumann, Andrew Carle, and to Google’s Arun Nagarajan, Saurabh Gupta, and Zach Yeskel.