A Catholic, college-preparatory school, grades 7-12
Engineering Hackathon

Engineering Hackathon

June 2, 2016

Engineering Hackathon Allows Collaboration for Students and Professionals


At Benilde-St. Margaret’s, we are constantly finding ways to connect the teaching and learning that happens in our classrooms to the real world outside our school community. In order to truly educate servant leaders for a global society, we know it is imperative that our student experience includes opportunities to develop a social conscience and build next generation skills such as faith, problem solving, global citizenship and communication.

Earlier this week, senior engineering students had the ability to work side by side with professionals to collaborate and improve on their Robocup robot, a project that’s been ongoing for most of this school year. These seniors, who had already completed their last day of classes, came back to participate in a hackathon with software architects and software developers from Pearson Vue.

A hackathon is an event in which a group of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming. The goal for this hackathon was to reprogram the controller used for the Robocup robot. The previous programming consisted of proprietary technology, and while nothing was wrong with it, faculty and students thought an open source platform would be more beneficial. In order to assist with this programming transfer, engineering teacher Ms. Kirsten Hoogenakker, had the idea to bring in some professionals.

“In the engineering program, we are always looking for ways to expand the direct contact students have with individuals who work in the engineering field. I knew this project would be a good challenge for the students, and it just made sense to try and find that professional connection,” explained Hoogenakker.

Finding that connection proved easier than expected. BSM senior Kayla McMenamy has been part of BSM’s engineering program the last few years, and she has participated in Destination Imagination (DI), which is coached by Hoogenakker. It turned out that Kayla’s mom Lisa works as a business solutions consultant for Pearson Vue.


“I have helped manage Kayla’s DI team the last few years, so I have learned a lot about BSM engineering and how Ms. Hoogenakker and Dr. Peter Kirwin hope to develop the program. Kirsten and I have talked about getting students and professionals together for a working session; this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Fortunately, I work for an company that gives each employee two paid days off each year for everyone to volunteer at organizations of their choice,” McMenamy shared.

In the end, the hackathon was a success. Students received one-on-one support from experts, and Pearson Vue employees got to make a difference in their community. There is still some work left to do on the robot before the Robocup team heads to the international competition in Leipzig, Germany later this summer. However, students are much more confident in their abilities and know they can get the job done.

“My hope is that this is just the first of many opportunities our students have to translate the things they learn in the lab to real world applications. Being able to engage with individuals in this line of work is invaluable for our Red Knights, and I welcome anyone willing to share their time and talent,” stated Hoogenakker.

2501 Highway 100 South, St. Louis Park, MN 55416     952-927-4176