Clovis North High School to Host First Annual “Innovation Challenge”

Clovis North High School’s virtual event “Innovation Challenge” is set to begin March 26-28. (Courtesy of CNCC)

Clovis North High School’s Coding Club is hosting their first ever virtual “Innovation Challenge” this coming March 26-28 weekend.

The event allows students from middle school to college to participate in creating a solution to a real-world problem that has affected their community.

The “Innovation Challenge” is a ‘virtual hackathon’ where the goal is to create a solution to a problem whether that be through programming, videography, art, creative writing, hacking, etc.

This community-oriented challenge allows students to create a team or be placed in a team of up to five people to create a solution to a problem presented by American Ambulance, a partner for the event.

No prior knowledge or background in coding is necessary to be involved. Participants can freely work with their teams as long as their product is finished and ready to present by the deadline on Sunday, March 28.

Mary Allen is the computer science teacher and coding club adviser at Clovis North said participants are able to work to their schedules for the event, providing a sense of flexibility for all those involved.

“The team decides how often and how much time they will meet for…there’s no restrictions on our end,” Allen said. “We just say you have to have this document completed, a narrative of basically what you’ve done, to present your project digitally to a panel of judges.”

The idea to create this event was born after one of the club’s members attended a virtual hackathon at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

“He loved the idea so much he wanted to bring it back here to our campus, so that’s what prompted this whole [event]. They [the club members] didn’t want to call it a hackathon because hack has such a negative connotation, so they changed the name to an innovation challenge,” she said.

This year Allen stated the panel of judges consists of members from the American Ambulance, a few teachers from Clovis North and a parent from the school’s community.

Each team will have 20 minutes to present any solutions to the problem given to them at the end of the 48-hour challenge and prizes will be given to those who are chosen as the events winners.

“We’re just happy to have anybody, anybody and everybody involved regardless of the age group, regardless of the experience level so we opened it [the challenge] up to everybody,” Allen said.

The “Innovation Challenge” is free to attend, but a $5 optional donation is available to those who choose to participate.

All funds raised for the event will be given to the Poverello House in Fresno.

The Poverello House is a shelter for those who are mentally ill, chronically homeless, and who suffer from substance abuse.

They provide three hot meals, 365 days a year, temporary shelter and referrals for social services to those in need.

“One of the big things that I work with on my students and anyone who I’m an adviser for is you have a responsibility…to give back to the community and I need to instill that in students, young, as early as I can. So anytime students want to do an event, it has to take on the form of a fundraiser,” Allen said.

Not only does the “Innovation Challenge” allow for students to explore new interests in the coding and hacking world, but it also lets them meet and listen to various guest speakers while finding a solution to the problem presented which in turn positively help the community.

Although members of the coding club may be nervous for their first “Innovation Challenge,” Allen said the excitement of it all outweighs their fears.

“We know there’s going to be some hiccups, but if we maintain the goal of all of this, to solve a problem while helping our community, we’re going to be just fine.”

Halle Sembritzki was born in the small Swedish village of Kingsburg, California and graduated from Kingsburg High School in 2017. She now attends Fresno State and will graduate with her Bachelor’s in Multimedia Journalism in spring 2021. She aspires to use her voice as an outlet for those who can’t use their own and hopes to educate the public on important news topics happening within her community and the country.