Students typing on keyboards.

It’s unique in that it’s everywhere now. One of the exciting things about Computer Science is it’s a really transportable degree.”

Dr. Michael Farmer, Computer Science Department Head

Kettering University hosts its inaugural Hackathon for high school students this week.

The event, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday in the C.S. Mott Engineering and Science Center on Kettering’s campus, brings together 50 juniors and seniors to test their skills and showcase their problem-solving abilities in a programming competition.

“We want to bring more awareness to Computer Science at Kettering,” said Dr. Michael Farmer, Computer Science Department Head. “With the boom of AI, it’s accelerating the interest. There’s really cool work being done in all kinds of industrial sectors, and that’s driven by Computer Science.”

In this Hackathon, participants are given a series of programming challenges that start simple and get increasingly difficult. The top finishers will receive prizes. First prize is a PlayStation 5; second prize is a Nintendo Switch; and third prize is a high-quality gaming headset.

Students from the Computer Science Department and Computer Science alumni and students participating on the Kettering Esports team will be available to mentor the participants too.

Farmer said the competition is just the beginning. He hopes to schedule more Hackathons in the future.

“We’re measuring what the students know and are capable of so we can design future competitions and even use the outcomes to influence our introductory classes,” he said.

He also hopes the competition will debunk some misconceptions about Computer Science.

“It’s not being alone in your basement; it’s team-based,” said Farmer, noting he worked on teams from 25 to 200 in various industries. “... It’s more than programming. It’s thinking through constructing a system that’s compelling to use and easy to understand. The coding is cool because you can implement it, but it’s also very creative. You’re basically teaching a machine to do something.”

He said a career in Computer Science could take students to any industry, including automotive, aerospace, insurance, finance, healthcare and government. 

“It’s unique in that it’s everywhere now,” Farmer said. “One of the exciting things about Computer Science is it’s a really transportable degree.”

He said those with a Computer Science degree can shift to different industries with no retraining. This is especially important in times of recession. For example, Farmer said one of his friends went from making software for airplanes to creating software for pacemakers.

“That is unique to Computer Science,” Farmer said. “I think it’s empowering. It enables students to have a future-proof career.”

For more information about a degree in Computer Science, click here.