Northside Coding Club Leads Jones Jam
By Kenny Larson
Throughout the school year, members of Northside’s Coding Club have made it their mission to promote computer science among Chicago public high school students. As part of this objective, club leaders Anton Outkine, Adv. 009, and Christian Sparks, Adv. 905, organized a video game design event called Jones Jam, hosted at Jones College Prep. The event occurred on Jan. 31 and attracted over eighty students from across the city.
Competitors at the event were tasked with designing a video game and submitting it online for peer review. After students finished trickling into the building at around 8:00 a.m, Outkine spoke about the purpose of the event and announced its theme: thirty-seconds. He then announced several coding workshops, including one led by Tate Collier, Adv. 105, that more inexperienced coders could attend to jump-start their design process.
Shortly after Outkine’s speech, students split themselves into several groups and dove into the coding process. Although the games varied in design and style, Outkine implemented a theme into the process because he wanted to provide students with a common format to work from. “Having a common theme is good because it gives them a place to start” said Outkine. “[Open topics] often result in unintentional restrictions. If the theme is ‘thirty seconds’ there’s a lot of room there.”
Outkine’s role at Jones Jam extended beyond the event itself. For the past several months, Sparks and him have been developing their organization, Chicode, to ensure that they can continue to promote computer science education. The duo recently filed paperwork to make the organization an official non-profit 501c(3) so that they can begin to receive donations and enhance their credibility as community organizers. “We want to move onto bigger things, get more donors, and get more people involved in computer science at a non-profit level,” said Sparks.
After a brief lunch break and about six more hours of work, the groups met back together at the end of the event to present their projects to each other. Sparks, Outkine, and several other members of the Jones Jam staff served as judges for this portion of the event and took diligent notes on each project made by the groups. After a rigorous debate over which projects were the most effective and interesting games, the judges assigned awards to each group which included a Steam gift card as a prize. The winning projects varied in design, but included many strategy conquest games, as well as a game based off of the card game “War”.
Although not all groups won a prize, the response from the participants was generally very positive. “What keeps me coming back to hackathons is exactly what I found at Jones Jam,” said Stephanie Burdin, Adv. 905. “A group of passionate students who have a deep internal drive to share their passion with others and build communities of like-minded people that foster genuine human connection.” During the event, Outkine also encouraged students to sign-up for future coding events in the city that he promised would be coming soon.
Outkine has followed through on his commitment. On March 2 and 3, Outkine, also the regional manager of an organization entitled Student Research and Development (SRND), led Chicago’s winter Code Day event. About twice as long as Jones Jam, the event spanned over twenty-four hours and attracted the same demographic of high school coders. He informed the HoofBeat that the next Code Day is planned for May of this year and that more information will be announced soon.
Students interested in getting involved with either NCP Code or its future coding events should be sure to contact Outkine at email@example.com, or attend weekly NCP Code meetings on Thursdays in room 313 directly after school. “The best part is that all levels of coding experience are welcome,” said Burdin, commenting on Jones Jam and NCP Code’s accessibility for inexperienced students. “Whether you have never written a line of code before or are the CEO of Google, you have a place at Jones Jam and at hackathons in general.”