Utah students compete in ‘Hackathon’ with Hill Air Force Base

Nov 2, 2023, 6:00 PM

students sit at their computers as they compete in a hackathon...

Students compete in a 'Hackathon' at Hill Air Force Base in Layton, Utah on Nov. 2, 2023. (Adam Small/KSL NewsRadio)

(Adam Small/KSL NewsRadio)

KAYSVILLE, Utah — Students in the Davis School District competed in a so-called hackathon Thursday morning. It’s an event put on by members of Hill Air Force Base.

Contrary to what the name suggests, the kids were not training to be the next genius computer hacker. But they were coding, and completing other computer-related puzzles.

Kasey Thompson, a program director in the software division at Hill Air Force Base, told KSL NewsRadio that the term hacking is a little outdated and misunderstood.

“A lot of people recognize that as trying to hack a system or hack into a computer and do nefarious things, that’s not what this is about,” Thompson said.

“Hacking is the keystroking … I’m hacking away like you’re hacking away on a term paper.”

Interest shown by Utah high schoolers is encouraging

Students gathered for the day-long event at Davis Catalyst, a school designed for kids who want to pursue specialized careers, like programming, coding, aviation, pharmaceuticals, and construction.

Thompson said this was the first time they hosted an event like this with high school students. He was excited to see so many kids show up.

“It’s amazing … it’s ridiculously encouraging,” Thompson said. “They are already looking to do things that we are looking for at a professional level, they’re wanting to do at a high school level … that is encouraging.”

Kids from all over the district attended the Hackathon.

Some, like Woods Cross High School senior Michelle Chan, expressed interest in cybersecurity as a career.

“Not only because it’s a good paying job, but also it’s … essential [for] the future and goals … I have,” Chan said.

Representatives from Hill Air Force Base were at the event, too. They were looking for potential intern candidates, though winning the competition didn’t guarantee an internship.

Computer skills are in demand, whether in defense or the civilian workforce

Even if the kids don’t end up working in national defense, Thompson said their skills are highly coveted in multiple areas of the modern workforce.

“Other companies all have a software person,” Thompson said. “[It] doesn’t matter if you’re fast food or a lumber yard, you’re going to have a need for somebody like this.”

The goal of the hackathon, Thompson said, was to educate and to interest more kids in computer programming and cybersecurity.

“When we’re trying to defend a nation, the more educated … [and] capable we are with our employees, the safer we’re going to be,” Thompson said.


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Utah students compete in ‘Hackathon’ with Hill Air Force Base