The students had 24 hours to develop their application at the hackathon, Liu said. At this competition, some companies sponsored challenges specific to problems they wanted solved, he said, so teams could develop their products accordingly.
The judges selected the top five teams to give presentations, and then narrowed down their selections to the top two overall winners.
When the call came telling them they were among the top five, "we were really surprised," Xin said.
The teens were even more surprised to learn they'd beaten the second-place competitors to take the first place overall prize, they said.
They're hoping their app could help in the following scenario, they said over a video conference interview with the Voice: Say your physics professor is introducing a new concept, and you're lost. As one of 300 students in the class, you're hesitant to ask a question. Really, though, everyone is confused, perhaps because the professor forgot to review a key concept. The app would allow students to submit a score of their understanding of the lesson on a scale from 1 to 10, to let the professor know that the presentation isn't making sense. It would also give students a platform to submit questions to the professor anonymously.
Rather than read through potentially hundreds of questions during class, teachers would have access to a platform that would aggregate student questions into overarching keywords that would identify areas to review in real time. The instructors would also get an aggregate rating showing student understanding of the concept they're teaching over time.
All three students are not new to computer programming projects: They are members of Mountain View High School's Ignition club, which participates in hackathons and cybersecurity competitions. This year, the three decided to compete on their own at the San Francisco hackathon.
Liu said he's participated in a lot of hackathons before, and enjoys working on personal programming projects in his free time. Xin and Patrawala said they also enjoy creating things with code.
The students say that they're planning to keep working on the app until it's a marketable product.
"Since we're in high school, we have the opportunity to take some risks," said Patrawala. "We're in a perfect position to try and get experience."
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