Student Highlight: Priya Kalra at TechTogether Boston

Posted Feb 20, 2020 by Priya Kalra, edited by Mingjie Jiang

Hi! My name is Priya Kalra and I am a junior in the magnet program at Poolesville High School. I am extremely interested in and technology and engineering. I am a member of a robotics team, taught a coding camp to young girls in my community, and was selected as an ambassador for Technica 2019! In addition, I play field hockey and lacrosse, and I am testing for my black belt in Taekwondo this month.

Ever since I attended Technica for the first time in 2018, I have become more interested in coding, and have been able to learn many new skills in an exciting and comfortable learning environment. Hackathons are an amazing experience for anybody, regardless of their previous STEM experiences, to learn something new. After leaving Technica, I had developed a passion for STEM, and started my search for more hackathons.

When I came across TechTogether Boston on the Hack Club website, I decided to do some more research about the hackathon. After looking over the tentative schedule, and watching recap videos from previous years, I knew I wanted to attend TechTogether Boston. I decided to apply to the hackathon, and I was accepted in. At first, I was hesitant to go, because I did not know anybody else that was going, and I had never been to Boston before. But, after figuring out logistics, and making friends over Slack; I was excited and ready to attend!

On Friday, January 31st at 6:30 am, I packed up my bags and left for the Amtrak station in Baltimore. As I waited at the train station, I was both excited and curious about what my experience was going to be. I reviewed the TechTogether Boston agenda and made note of important events and workshops I planned on attending. My train arrived, and it was only an hour-long trip to Philadelphia. Once I arrived in Philadelphia, I then boarded the bust provided by TechTogether Boston, and I was on my way to Boston. The other girls on the bus were extremely welcoming and inclusive, and I had already made friends within ten minutes. I was assured that I would have a great experience at TechTogether Boston.

After the five-hour-long bus ride, we finally arrived in Boston. Although it was dark and I could not see the city, the Agganis Arena was beautifully illuminated. We gathered our belongings from the bus and made our way into the Agganis Arena. As we entered, I experienced a rush of excitement and awe. The hallway was beautifully lined with balloons and tables with swag. The volunteers had huge smiles on their faces as they welcomed us to TechTogether Boston and handed us t-shirts.

Prior to TechTogether Boston, people had put out information about themselves in the ‘team-formation” channel on Slack, and we were able to get a group of 4 high schoolers together to form a team. I met Banan, Sydney, and Foziea and we worked together throughout the weekend, becoming good friends by the end of TechTogether Boston. Three sides of the arena were filled with sponsor tables from sponsors such as MLH, Facebook, Qualcomm, Capital One and so many more. My favorite part about the sponsors was being able to talk to industry professionals and learn about their day to day work life and internship opportunities. In addition, the workshops served as a break from the exhaustion of hacking. My favorite workshops were the HTML, GitHub, and Cybersecurity workshops because they allowed me to learn about new technologies that I would not have the opportunity to learn about in school.

While taking breaks attending workshops, talking to sponsors, and snacking, my friends and I worked on our hack. We decided to create an app to combat the issue of fake news. Since most of the members on our team were inexperienced with coding, we decided to use code.org. We were able to successfully create an app that lets the user know if their website is a credible source or not. They are prompted to answer 10 questions about the website they plan on using, and then the app lets them know if the website is providing legitimate. In addition, the app provides the user with credible websites to use based on a specific topic. This app is very easy to use and can be used by people of all ages. My teammates and I were extremely relieved when we finally submitted our hack after staying up all night!

On Sunday, it was time to present our hack to the judges. We went to our assigned table and waited for the judges to come up to us and ask us about our hack. It was a great experience to practice talking to professionals, and I was able to improve my public speaking skills throughout the judging. After judging, we packed up our belongings and waited for the closing ceremony. The closing ceremony was extremely sad because that meant the amazing weekend was coming to an end. After exchanging contact information with my new friends, and saying goodbye, it was time to board the bus back to Philadelphia.

Priya

Thanks to Execute Big, I was able to have the unique opportunity of attending TechTogether Boston and improving my knowledge of STEM. Throughout the process, I was guided by the staff members of Exectute Big and I would not have been able to attend TechTogether Boston without their help. I am extremely thankful for this experience, and I hope other students are also able to take advantage of this great opportunity!