MindBlast XR Hackathon Introduces Middle Schoolers to Cutting Edge Technology

Winners Circle XR Academy allows Rhode Island middle school students to gain an understanding of today’s technology and programming tools with a coding marathon.
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At least eight local middle schools are going head to head at this year’s MindBlast XR Hackathon. Photo courtesy of Juan Rodriguez.

Through April 14, the talented middle school students participating in this year’s MindBlast XR Hackathon are merging their technology skills with everyday social justice issues that affect Rhode Islanders.

The hackathon, held by Winners Circle XR Academy, involves ethical hacking with themes of social justice such as racism, discrimination and poverty. Participants get to work with industry professionals to design an augmented or virtual reality project as the solution to the social justice issue assigned to them. About three to five students team up to represent their school and are paired with a community leader to guide them throughout the week.

Winners’ Circle XR Academy is a nonprofit and afterschool program which aims to empower students within marginalized communities by giving them access to technology and rigorous education programs. After class, middle school students enrolled in Providence and Central Falls schools get to learn how to code and design augmented and virtual reality projects while developing essential skills.

“There’s a lot of brainstorming and teamwork. It’s exciting that we have these schools competing against each other with this sort of technology while engaging in social justice,” says Juan Rodriguez, founder and executive director of Winners Circle XR Academy.

On the final day of the hackathon, the teams regroup at Dave and Buster’s Providence at 10 a.m. and present their project in front of a panel of judges who will decide whose project wins in first, second and third place. Afterwards, the participants will be celebrated for their work and get to continue the fun.

The middle schools going head to head at the MindBlast XR Hackathon are: San Miguel School (PVD), Community Preparatory School (PVD), Nathan Bishop Middle School (PVD), the Gordon School (East Providence), Calcutt Middle School (Central Falls), Warwick Veterans Memorial Middle School and Nicholas A. Ferri Middle School (Johnston) collaborating as one team, the Hope Academy (PVD), and the all-girls team at Sophia Academy (PVD).

Rodriguez is thrilled to be hosting an event like this, as students of color typically don’t get to play a part in events similar to the hackathon. “A lot of these students come from Title I schools but they don’t have the resources. Giving them access to this event and technology is only going to make education more equitable for students,” Rodriguez says. “We have a lot of folks that are involved, tons of great community leaders and industry professionals that should be recognized as well, it’s definitely an exciting event.”

Support the participating middle schoolers on April 14 at 10 a.m. at Dave and Buster’s Providence and see who wins this year’s MindBlast XR Hackathon. 40 Providence Pl., Providence, winnerscirclexr.com



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