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High School TechOlympics 2022 to Feature Inaugural Hackathon

The 13th annual INTERalliance TechOlympics event will feature 38 breakout sessions, 10 competitions, 11 workshops and a three-day, innovation-focused hackathon to acquaint students with the regional technology industry.

INTERalliance of Greater Cincinnati.jpg
INTERalliance of Greater Cincinnati
The INTERalliance of Greater Cincinnati, a student-run nonprofit that promotes IT career pathways for teens, is preparing its 13th annual high school technology conference with a new twist.

TechOlympics 2022: BYTE Back will include a two-day virtual conference with breakout sessions and keynote speeches scheduled for Feb. 19 and 20, followed by its first-ever hackathon event Feb. 25-27, with a plethora of workshops and games at students’ disposal, according to a recent news release. The student-led conference is intended to give high schoolers the opportunity to explore the technology industry, with more than 300 students and 35 companies slated to attend this month, and a variety of competitions ranging from code golf and “hacker heaven” to wiki races and speed texting. The event will feature 10 competitions, 11 workshops and 38 breakout sessions, touching a range of subjects such as software development, cybersecurity, career readiness, data science, artificial intelligence, biomedical and entrepreneurial technologies.

INTERalliance’s Executive Director Heather Ackels told Government Technology that the event going virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic was a blessing in disguise, with its reach expanding beyond greater Cincinnati to include students from other states such as California and Virginia, as well as Washington, D.C. In the future, the plan is to make the event hybrid, allowing some students to attend in person and others to tune in from other states, she said, noting that the virtual aspect has also allowed event organizers to include keynote speakers from around the globe.

In addition to the breakout sessions, Ackels said students will have opportunities to network with and learn directly from local professionals from companies such as General Electric, Procter & Gamble, and Anthem, and from educators at universities such as the University of Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky University and Xavier University.

She said organizers are also excited to present “The Social Dilemma,” a 2020 documentary-drama about how social media is reprogramming civilization, featuring tech experts sounding the alarm on their own creations. The film’s director Julia Hoppock is a keynote speaker at the conference, and Ackels noted that INTERalliance wants students to “make the world a better place that is safe for them,” adding that the film will help enlighten students to head down that path.

Another highlight of the conference, according to organizers, will be the TechOlympics Showcase. To participate, teams work with a coach from November to February with the goal of finding a solution to a real-world problem, then present the result as a team, virtually, before a panel of executive judges from all over Cincinnati’s business community. As an added boost, the event has thousands of dollars in prizes to dole out over the course of the two weekends.

New this year, the TechOlympics Hackathon will open the door for students to create some type of innovation — for example in game design, or product design, with dozens of business mentors available to help guide them along the way.

Ackels said the annual TechOlympics, which started as a small, community-driven, hourslong conference, has evolved over the years into a significantly larger gathering whose reach far exceeds the suburban, well-off schools it targeted in its early years.

“We’re bringing more students, not only from suburban areas, but from urban areas in our region and beyond ... We put a lot of focus on professional development,” Ackels said, noting the conference now has 100 hours of content spread across the two weeks. “We want to build future leaders in technology who can communicate and think outside of the box and learn the skills needed to be a tech leader of the future.”

TechOlympics is accessible to all students and educators and is free to attend. More information is available on the event’s website.
Giovanni Albanese Jr. is a staff writer for the Center for Digital Education. He has covered business, politics, breaking news and professional soccer over his more than 15-year reporting career. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Salem State University in Massachusetts.