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Teaching Computational Thinking through Civics: NYC's Hack League


This poster provides an overview of the goals and objectives of the New York City Department of Education's (NYCDOE) Hack League, a district-wide competition that invites middle and high school students with any level of CS experience to explore the systemic impacts and applications of computing. By requiring participants to interact with data and prototype a proposed solution to an issue that the data illuminates, students creatively engage in a human-centered design and strategic problem-solving process aimed at improving the quality of life and civic issues in their communities. Each stage of competition represents a component of the engineering design process, thereby encouraging students to be thoughtful programmers. Through three stages of competition, students identify an issue and validate it with data, outline and prototype a solution while incorporating feedback from industry professionals and subject matter experts, and build metrics into their product. Making open data accessible to students has proven to be an effective approach to developing citizen scientists in NYC. This competition could be replicated in districts anywhere in the country and can be organized within or across schools. It is a great way to encourage student development as civic-minded individuals, engagement with their local government and elected officials, and application of computational thinking and computer science skills.

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