Teens ditch classroom to become hackers with a purpose

The term hacker may typically be associated with negative connotations. However, TeenHacks LI is working with high school students by using hacking and coding to assist in philanthropic efforts worldwide.

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The group holds a bi-annual "hackathon" where the students meet to create apps, build technological shortcuts and learn computer science skills that aren’t traditionally taught in schools.

“Students realized they weren’t getting the education they needed to be creative,” TeenHacks LI executive director Wesley Pergament told FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo.

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As an answer to teachers’ lack of creativity, Pergament launched the free 24-hour hackathon – a fully-sponsored, widely-accessible event.

“What happens throughout these events is that students will spend the first few hours ideating problems that there are in the world,” he said. “So whether that be problems overseas with water pollution or things within our own country with recycling programs, they're going to be using computer science to build applications to solve these problems.”

TeenHacks’ hackathon disrupts the idea that computer hacking is an isolating practice by creating a community in problem-solving, especially in a technologically advanced world, said Pergament, where communication critical.

“Working in groups of two to four really promotes how to divide up the work and figuring out what needs to get done,” he said.

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Of course, there’s the reason as to why computer hacking isn’t taught in traditional schooling: The fear that students may practice illegally. But Pergament says that’s not a worry for them.

“There's something called the black hat hackers, which are kind of the negative connotation to the word,” he said. “But for our events, for the purpose, we haven't really experienced anything like that.”

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Aside from learning to hack and code, Pergament said, hackathon events host sponsors and collegiate mentors, from schools such as MIT, Berkeley and Stanford, who run workshops and teach how to build websites and mobile apps.

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