GFS ‘Quackathon’ inspired thoughtful technology solutions

Posted 4/8/21

Powerful things can happen when you combine Quaker testimonies with computer science. The 2021 Germantown Friends School Quackathon (the GFS version of a Hackathon) proved just that.

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GFS ‘Quackathon’ inspired thoughtful technology solutions

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Powerful things can happen when you combine Quaker testimonies with computer science. The 2021 Germantown Friends School Quackathon (the GFS version of a Hackathon) proved just that.

Led by GFS juniors Amelia Otto, Marissa Shaffer, and Martina Kiewek, this year’s Quackathon, held March 5-6, challenged middle and high schoolers from the Philadelphia area—as well as one team from India—to “Hack the SPICES”: develop programming solutions inspired by simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship. In addition to asynchronous time to code in teams, the two-day event welcomed inspiring speakers, including Ari Weinstein ’12, who sold his software company to Apple in 2017, and two female coders who are addressing gender disparity in STEM: Archika Dogra, founder of Innoverge, and Caeley Looney, Founder and Editor of Reinvented Magazine.

Over the two-day event, students collaborated on programs designed to create community and promote peace, including first place winner “Quakerism Discord Bot”—a Python-based bot designed to reduce cyberbullying in text-based forums developed by GFS freshmen Jackson Rodgers and Finn Jamieson. Second place went to “4Ward,” a platform where community members can anonymously express concerns relating to mental health and injustice, developed by GFS sophomores Maria Ramos, Allessandra Fusaro, and Amelia Scott.

Jamieson shared insights into his team’s process. “The day before the Quackathon, Jackson and I brainstormed ideas that could address cyberbullying. With a lot of trial and error, we built a program using Python code that identifies and deletes cyberbullying in text-based forums and replaces the text with kinder, more Quakerly comments.

“It was exciting to work on a project out of our comfort zone and have the flexibility to try new things,” he added. “We are excited to continue to work on this project.”

Student organizer Otto was proud of the event’s success despite the challenging circumstances. “Though our event was virtual due to COVID-19, we were still able to come together, welcome many participants and speakers, and host an inspiring weekend for all. We cannot wait until next year.”

Visit quackathon.devpost.com/project-gallery to learn about four projects developed during this year’s Quackathon.

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