From January 8-10, 2016, students from Western Australia, New York, and Philadelphia collaborated across the internet to solve global challenges using technology.  With the support of Microsoft, ILuka Resources as our host in Perth AU, and our US hosts, St. Joseph High School in Brooklyn and Penn Wood Middle School in Darby, PA., this program provided students an opportunity to explore coding HTML5 (the Hypertext Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), two of the core technologies for building Web pages. HTML provides the structure of the page, CSS the (visual and aural) layout, for a variety of devices.

Registration ready to go! Thanks to Microsoft for some cool swag for the students!

Registration ready to go! Thanks to Microsoft for some cool swag for the students!

The goal of the program is to teach students how to work in teams and learn to code and solve problems on a global scale.  We live in a software world and this next generation of students entering the workforce will be asked to solve big problems that span the globe and to interact across time zones and cultures.  Students were provided with the opportunity to expand on their own knowledge independently with free learning resources like Khahn Academy and free developer tools like DreamSpark from Microsoft.

Students taking part in an important team-building activity

Students taking part in an important team-building activity

In attending the Hackahton students gained valuable skills that can be taken outside the classroom and aid them in entering the workforce later in life. For many students in poverty stricken communities learning to code and work with developer tools can support a brighter future for them and for their families.

Some important instruction with Dave Voyles, Microsoft Senior Technical Evangelist.

Some important instruction with Dave Voyles, Microsoft Senior Technical Evangelist.

WCTD has taken the best practices of the traditional hackathon concept, normally delivered for college and entrepreneur students, and melded it with our project based experiential learning and neuroscience research based teaching approach. Creating a new innovative experience for students ages 13-18, a critical age in terms of future career opportunities and the skills needed to be successful.

Lessons in device management and development from Chris Gomez

Lessons in device management and development from Chris Gomez

Like our other programs, the Hackathon is designed with a detailed playbook that allows schools, corporate sponsors and communities to deliver the program with our support. This first year was about laying the ground work for a concept that can span around the world, expanding each year to impact more communities and broaden our reach. The result will not only be about teaching students to code but to provide them the collaboration, critical thinking, and global communication skills that are necessary in today’s workforce and in the future. By offering the playbook we are allowing schools to expand their ability to support their students, teachers and community members. We know how difficult it can be for schools to support enrichment programs like ours that prepare students for the workforce, so we take the guess work out. We provide schools an opportunity to learn from industry experts through our partnerships and resources around the world.

Collaboration in Perth AU

Collaboration in Perth AU

Each year we will expand our presence around the nation and around the world through this program, creating a connected community both online and between school districts. With each passing year we will engage more countries to create partnerships so that students and teachers can collaborate and learn together.

Students and mentors putting learning into practice

Students and mentors putting learning into practice

A big thank you to our site leads who took a leap with us to "get uncomfortable to get comfortable" with a new and innovative approach to teaching students:  Kathy Bunce and the entire team from Iluka Resources, Jennifer Hoff, Chris Gomez and the entire team from Penn Wood Middle School, Matthew Mobijohn and Sister Joan Gallagher and the staff and volunteers from St. Joseph High School and all the students, parents and volunteers from South Huntington High School. We would also like to extend a special thank you to Dave Voyles and James Quick, and the entire Microsoft Australia team that supported this program and offered their time and attention to our students for the weekend!

A big thanks to Charis Satchell, a videographer who attended the hackathon to capture all of these great moments. Please take a few minutes to watch!

To learn how you can bring this annual program to your school district contact us at

Below we have included some statistical data garnered from our student assessments and feedback from our site leads. The results are just from this 48 hour program, but show a marked improvement in students' ability to understand technology, get confident with it, and learn how to use it to solve problems. Imagine what we will be able to accomplish with our two-week program this summer!

Number of students attending the program and the diversity components:

  • Total students across all sites: 86
  • % Girls attended: 43
  • % Boys attended: 57
Pre and Post Hackathon Assessment Survey results 2016

Pre and Post Hackathon Assessment Survey results 2016

It is our  pleasure to be able to share with you the projects created by our students. Please click on the following link that corresponds to our locations during the event for a look at the websites designed by the student teams:

St Josephs High School, Brooklyn NY

Penn Wood Middle School, Darby PA

ILuka Resources, Perth AU

Thanks to a lot of dedicated folks we were also able to capture lots and lots of great photos from the weekend’s events. We invite you to view each location’s photos by clicking on the corresponding link below.

Brooklyn Photos

Darby Photos

Perth Photos

Now it is time for you to get involved! If you are wondering how you can help We Connect the Dots, there are plenty of ways.

Donate: If you believe, as we believe, that our programs have great value in the world of education, then please help us make it happen for more students. Your help will not only allow us to deliver more of these programs in the future, but you will be helping students around the world who need us!

Spread the Word: Help us reach more school districts and students! Want us to deliver a program in your school district? Help us by spreading the word about the great things we do to the school administration in your area. 

Become a Sponsor: We will provide information for other sponsorship opportunities in the future (join our mailing list!). In the meantime, if you are aware of a company or organization who would like to join in our mission of deliver STEAM education to students around the world, please do not hesitate to contact us. There are branding and advertising opportunities for companies and organizations who support our events.

Become a Partner in Education: We are always on the lookout for new grant opportunities to support our organization. If you are aware of an upcoming grant or would like to point us toward partnerships with organizations seeking grant funding, we would love to join forces!

Volunteer: Join us for events like the Hackathon, including our spring and summer programs.

Call or write to us to take part in our mission to provide education to students around the world! How will you help us change the world for students around the globe?

Host Communities:

Upper Darby is an impoverished neighborhood in West Philadelphia. This program is life changing for many students in the Darby community.  An opportunity to be exposed to skills and technology that they would likely never experience within their school district. This program provided students an opportunity to develop skills and understanding of how to empower their own learning and develop a growth mindset to become life-long learners.

St Joseph High School is an all-girls private school located in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn. Students from this location added an important diversity element to the Hackathon. A core component of all of WCTD programs is teaching the value of diversity and how important different perspectives of thinking and problem solving impact innovation.  Working in teams of girls mixed with boys with ages ranging from 13-18 creates the real world experience for students.  Teaching diversity at a younger age will ensure our female students sustain in careers where there is a higher ratio of male population, which over time will create the shift we seek. Providing critical learning for both genders to understand the value and the impact to our society long term.

Perth Australia brings the international component to the program, creating the opportunity for students to experience communicating across time zones and cultures.  Students engaged as a group across sites using Skype, they were assigned a challenge to interact via Skype and Yammer to plan their projects and understand how their project would bring value in another country. The Australian team engaged with a program for girls called "SHINE" this program works with young women who are at risk of disengaging from the education system and society, negatively impacting their employment and life opportunities into the future. SHINE supports, educates and empowers young girls with the life skills and tools to ensure their future is in their hands.  Overall the connection for these participants across Australia and the US brought a whole new level of experience this next generation of students will need as we become more and more a global software world.

Our goal for next year (January 20-22, 2017) will be to grow the number of schools and country's involved.  This program was designed to scale and empower schools and communities to come together to learn and empower the next generation.

AuthorLaurie Carey