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Why we started Hack Team 6

You may have noticed the lack of hackathons from our global rounds this past year. And you’d be right. We’ve been working hard on a new program called Hack Team 6. The mission? – train high-school students' event planning skills online, efficiently, and in a manner that is fun.

You may have noticed the lack of hackathons from our global rounds this past year.

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What's going on right now? 


You may have noticed the lack of hackathons from our global rounds this past year. And you’d be right. We’ve been working hard on a new program called Hack Team 6. The mission? – train high-school students' event planning skills online, efficiently, and in a manner that is fun.
 
My background

Joining XdHacks Mini in 2020, the landscape was different than today. XdHacks Mini was the only high-school hackathon organization in British Columbia (where I’m from), Zoom was still relatively new, and people were still comfortable with online events and online hackathons. I remember joining XdHacks Mini COVID-19 and being amazed at the breadth and quality of the workshops and speakers. That drew me into XdHacks Mini and sparked a passion for event organizing. 

 
Fast forward to early 2021, and in Vancouver, we’re hard at work organizing SecureHacks 2021, a high school hackathon focused on cybersecurity. As the Activities director on this team, I was chiefly responsible for finding and recruiting speakers for our event. It was a relatively simple role, and I loved my job.  
 
My time at XdHacks Mini Vancouver
Being promoted to Executive Director was probably my greatest accomplishment in my young career after SecureHacks – and one for which I took full responsibility. Being the Executive Director wasn’t an easy transition. Instead of thinking of just speakers and a few sponsors, I was now in charge of thinking about the entire event planning process and the people involved. From April 2021 to August 2021, planning for Climate Code 2021 was a full-time job – perhaps even more. I spent my mornings sending and responding to emails, and my afternoons running team meetings and working on various projects. I realized that it was a lonely world – a world where you often find yourself asking if what you’re doing is enough (there was always more to be done). But I persevered, and our team persevered – we brought the biggest high school hackathon in BC ever. It might’ve been the biggest high school led event in Canada in 2021. Every single event and every single meeting hammering out details at 2 am was worth it. 
 

While being Executive Director of Vancouver in 2021, I had already decided to graduate a year early from high school. This forced a difficult decision of picking and choosing an Executive Director for Vancouver to succeed me. In all honesty, I think I wasn’t prepared for it. More thought and effort should’ve been done by me to train someone capable of the task. What I found was that the level of time required is almost impossible to accomplish for a regular high school student. Add on AP/IB, schoolwork, homework, and other extracurriculars, then finding someone with the time required to pull off an event like the one I did in 2021 (not even a better one) was a pipe dream. 
 
The struggles during COVID-19
And although I was still involved in managing Executive Directors across the XdHacks Mini organization, teaching what I’d learned from my time in Vancouver was easier said than done. It’s very hard to find someone who is both passionate and able to dedicate tons and tons of time to making a dream come true. Often times, that person doesn’t know either, and sometimes not everyone is the right fit for the responsibility. 2021-2022 was a tough time for COVID as well – people began craving in-person experiences and were done with COVID. Executives the same. And hackathons were popping up everywhere in the world – even in Vancouver. 
 
The problem
The problem was now finding capable people who could run our events. Capable high schoolers especially. In my position as the Chief Round Coordinator, my main focus was to train Executive Directors. It wasn’t easy. Firstly, how do you inspire people to dedicate their free time to an organization that’s online. How do you train people to think critically and actually get work done. How do you teach people how to run a hackathon? The resources you provide only go so far – it comes down to passion and leadership. 
 
 
Hack Team 6
That’s where Hack Team 6 came to be. We needed more people at XdHacks Mini who were leaders. We needed people who would dedicate time to a dream. We needed more people who had a passion for event planning. In March 2021, I brought together 4 interested students in volunteering at XdHacks Mini to this pilot project. My goal – mentor them to the point where they could basically run their own event. 
 

I scheduled 1 weekly meeting for 9pm on Wednesdays and made sure that everyone could attend. In the first meeting, I told them the plan – I’d start with check-ins, then progress reports, then we’d dive into a skill. For some meetings, the skill would be leadership, some meetings marketing, some meetings teamwork. Each week there was some sort of group activity that would inspire these members to think about the event planning process. Then, in the last half hour, I would leave the meeting and let the team collect their thoughts, talk, and plan their tasks. 
 
The success of Hack Team 6
Basically, this allowed the team to learn teamwork, event planning, and the overall mission of XdHacks Mini all at once. The event process was a huge success. At the start, I told people that the end goal wouldn’t matter a lot. What mattered was the skills learned. But the event itself, a CS University panel, was a success. A fun afternoon of learning captivated dozens of students across Canada. Plus, information was cast onto YouTube, allowing future students to learn about CS programs throughout Canada. 
 
Looking forward

From this first iteration, we expanded. Right now, those who were on the first team are leading our new group of Hack Team 6 members towards events scheduled in late November/early December later this year. Hopefully after this, we can get back to running more hackathons and building a culture that inspires talent to join the organization. 

 
 
Victor Zheng,
Chief Round Coordinator,
Former Executive Director of XdHacks Mini Vancouver
XdHacks Mini Core Team

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