A team of four Blue Valley CAPS seniors – Kusalwin Kularatne and Jake Bjorseth from Blue Valley North, Josh Moore from Blue Valley High, and Josh Bethel from St. Thomas Aquinas – travelled to St. Louis, Mo. On Friday, October 21st to compete at GlobalHack VI.
“When I first heard about the hackathon I thought it was more business and entrepreneurship oriented,” Bjorseth said. “But when [my team and I] arrived in St. Louis, we were completely shaken to find out the prompt was completely different from what we expected.”
This competition, a technology challenge for students and professional coders, was held at the Chaifetz Arena on the St. Louis University campus. Upon arrival, the team would then have thirty-six hours to solve homelessness through computer programming.
“I know absolutely nothing about computers because I’m a businessman,” Kularatne said. “We have four people on our team, and three of them are business guys like myself. All the other teams have a lot of coders, but we only have one.”
Despite the low odds, the team set it upon themselves to not leave St. Louis without some sort of award. Bjorseth and Bethel said that even though they didn’t know how to code, they did know how to be entrepreneurs, and that would bring the team success.
“I’ve always been involved in business and entrepreneurship since I can remember. I’ve taken the Kauffman FastTrac course for entrepreneurs, and I have experience with startups,” Bjorseth said. “If there’s one thing that’ll set [my team] apart from everyone else, it’s the people skills that CAPS has taught us.”
Although the competition primarily revolved around writing code to create software, a substantial component of the challenge involved pitching the idea to a group of judges ranging from social workers and investors, to coders and engineers.
“Many of the people here aren’t comfortable giving a pitch to a bunch of VCs [venture capitalists],” Bethel said. “And this is where we’ll shine, because I’ve gotten so much experience from my CAPS Global Business class in [that] kind of stuff.”
Advancing through the first round of judging seamlessly, the team broke into the top one-third in their division for Round Two. However, their momentum was brought to a halt when the judges – a group of Silicon Valley programmers – gave the team low scores for their weak coding.
Despite this hurdle, the team moved from Round Two to advance into Round Three, the final round of judging. Only fifteen out of two-hundred-and-fifty teams would make it this far.
After presenting their pitch in the 10,600-seat arena, Bjorseth and his team won fifth place in the youth division of the competition, receiving an award totaling to $2500.
“When they announced our team number we were all in shock because none of us ever thought this would happen,” Moore said. “This was really amazing because we were able to use our knowledge from CAPS to win a technology event that we’d never done before.”