Hack California: HSHacks, MatadorHacks, and DeltaHacks Institute

Fostering creativity, entrepreneurship, and programming for 3,300+ students and helping students change the world through technology

Photo of Tom Zhang
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Additional categories (optional)

  • Education
  • Technology

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

HSHacks: hshacks.com, facebook.com/highschoolhacks; MatadorHacks: matadorhacks.com, instagram.com/matadorhacks; DeltaHacks Institute: deltahacksinstitute.tech

Date You Started Your Project Started


Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Students across America are unable to get into computer science and STEM fields because they don't have the resources or guidance, or may not have explored the power of science and technology. Those who are fortunate enough to have access to computer science classes and resources are given assignments that have strict guidelines, instead of using their creativity to build innovative projects and learn in an engaging, hands-on way.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Hack California consists of three hackathon-related nonprofit organizations. HSHacks is the oldest and largest high school hackathon in the country. We organize annual events attended by thousands of students that help students learn about entrepreneurship, coding, teamwork, and more by working together to build software/hardware projects (called "hacks") in 24 hours that solve real world problems. Thanks to dozens of sponsors, we're able to hold these events at the offices of top tech companies, provide meals/snacks/drinks, and award top teams thousands of dollars in prizes at no cost for attendees. We also provide resources such as developer tools, workshops, personalized guidance, and internship opportunities. MatadorHacks is a hackathon with many similar goals, but with a stronger focus on personalized support, especially for underprivileged and novice hackers through tailored workshops, mentorship, and more resources thanks to a smaller attendee count. DeltaHacks Institute is an organization that hosts workshops and provides mentorship on a variety of STEM topics with the goal of assisting those without a STEM background get started and succeed at hackathons.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

By attending hackathons across the country, I've learned a lot of skills and met some amazing people. But one person I ran into really changed the way I looked at these events. He was a 11th grader from San Jose who lived in a 1-bedroom apartment with his single mother and four other siblings. His high school was underfunded, had no computer science classes, and lacked resources for students looking to pursue a STEM career. But by attending hackathons, he had learned how to build mobile apps that won at a few hackathons. This caught the eye of one of the startup sponsors, and he landed a part-time paid internship there, the salary for which he used to help support his family. From then on, I knew these events could change the lives of high school students, and decided that I wanted to reach as many people as possible through hackathons. This motivated me to create Hack California.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

I’m stepping up to make change so students anywhere from any background have the opportunity to learn about technology and receive the right tools, guidance, and resources to build innovative projects with real-world impacts.

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

Sydney is a student living in Oakland, CA who did not have access to computer science education. She wasn't interested in a STEM career, but signed up for HSHacks IV because her science teacher, who received an email from the HSHacks outreach team, suggested that she attend. At the event, she attended a DeltaHacks Institute brainstorming session and a web development workshop, where she wrote her first lines of code. Sydney also talked to a company recruiter, who was impressed by her passion and asked her to email him in a year to be considered for an internship. Sydney's final project was a website that spreads awareness about homelessness, which she pitched to a panel of judges from various tech companies. In a post-event survey, Sydney indicated that attending HSHacks made her much more likely to pursue a career in STEM, and increased her knowledge and interest in computer science.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

HSHacks is the oldest and the largest high school hackathon, and we've been able to reach more students than any other high school hackathon, helping to create a thriving high school community of thousands of students. MatadorHacks provides one of the most resources per student for a hackathon at $727 per student on average. DeltaHacks Institute uses a unique approach to educate students on a wide range of topics in an individualized way. Hack California doesn't just teach students; we provide the resources that students need to change the world by building software and hardware solutions.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

HSHacks has partnered with more than 60 companies including Amazon, Google, IBM, Facebook, Microsoft, and Sequoia Capital to raise over $90,000. This has allowed more than 3,000 students (~42% female, far higher than average) from around the country to attend our annual events, creating nearly 500 innovative projects that tackle problems facing society. HSHacks has generated 800,000+ impressions, and has helped start a community of thousands of high school hackers that organized 200+ hackathons last year. MatadorHacks has partnered with 30 companies including Pixar, Hack Club, Crimson Education, and Wolfram to raise $80,000 in monetary and in-kind contributions in the past year, allowing 110 students to attend our event last April. DeltaHacks Institute has worked with a dozen or so hackathons to provide personalized and ongoing teaching, support, and mentorship to over 200 students.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

I'm leading a team from across the US to organize HSHacks V, which will take place in March 2020. We're currently looking for corporate sponsors (p.s. email me at tom@hshacks.com if your company might be interested or if you know someone!) and searching for a venue to host our event. We're building on our experience while learning from our mistakes to reach more students, improve the attendee experience, and overall make HSHacks V our best event yet. DeltaHacks Institute is continuing to partner with hackathons around California to bring programming, entrepreneurship, and engineering education to hundreds of students. We are expanding by partnering with libraries, schools, and other events, and plan to triple our impact in the next year.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Project Plan & Strategy

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations over $10k

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media

Evaluation results

43 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 88.4%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 2.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 7%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 2.3%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 86%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 9.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 2.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 2.3%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 86%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 2.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 9.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 2.3%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 10.5%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 2.6%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 2.6%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 88.4%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 4.7%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 4.7%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 2.3%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%

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Attachments (3)

HSHacks IV Sponsorship Prospectus.pdf

The prospectus that we provided to all companies interested in sponsoring HSHacks IV

MatadorHacks I Sponsorship Prospectus.pdf

The prospectus we provided to all companies interested in sponsoring MatadorHacks I

HSHacks IV Hacker Guide.pdf

Guide provided to all HSHacks IV attendees


Join the conversation:

Photo of Elizabeth Fernandes

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