HackGT Hopes to be a ‘Catalyst’ for Underserved Atlanta Students

Set for April 13 on the Georgia Tech campus, Catalyst is a one-day workshop, blended with traditional hackathon challenges.

Known for its wildly successful hackathons for college students, HackGT is bringing some of that magic to high school students from across Atlanta with the third annual Catalyst event. Set for April 13 on the Georgia Tech campus, Catalyst is a one-day workshop, blended with traditional hackathon challenges.

The free event is expected to attract more than 400 high school students from 60 schools across the metro Atlanta area. The event organizers' goal is to expose underserved students to various branches of science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) education, ideally sparking a lifelong interest in STEAM.

“HackGT 5, BuildGT, Horizons, and other events we have developed are built for college students. Given the educational disparities that exist within certain parts of Atlanta, HackGT understands the importance of reaching out to communities beyond Georgia Tech and other collegiate environments,” said Jordan Madison, computer science (CS) major and HackGT’s director of communications.

HACKGT Catalyst Workshop at Georgia Tech in 2018

Catalyst 2018 event organized by HackGT, an undergraduate student group at Georgia Tech that is dedicated to sharing "the spirit of application, innovation, and creativity in computer science education."

In 2017, less than one percent of students in Georgia public schools took the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam. In fact, only two schools in the Atlanta Public School system offered the course. This lack of access motivated the organizers to keep the event completely free, from registration to swag, allowing students from any background the opportunity to participate in Catalyst.

Sponsored by Amazon and Facebook, with in-kind donations from Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, Catalyst offers four tracks for participants to choose from: software, hardware, gaming, and design.

Catalyst welcomes participants with no prior STEAM experience, and each track offers a workshop to help participants develop the basic foundations and skills that are needed to complete the track’s tasks. Participants will create technology pieces in the workshop that they can take home.

Within each track, students are divided into small groups and mentored by college student. The mentors provide hands-on support to help students better grasp concepts. The students will also hear from industry professionals about pursuing an education or career in STEAM during panel discussions scheduled for the event.

“Underserved students success in computer science or other STEAM-related fields is mainly linked to their lack of access to resources and opportunities. They have plenty of talent, but no idea about the options that are waiting for them. Events like Catalyst are crucial for exposing more kids to STEAM who might not otherwise have the opportunity to do so,” said PK Graff, a fellow at the Constellations Center for Equity in Computing at Georgia Tech who teaches computer science at schools in Atlanta Public Schools and serves as an advisory member for Catalyst.

Registration closes April 5 at https://catalyst.hack.gt/#registration


Allie McFadden

Communications Officer