Hackathon tests teens’ skills, city’s technology

Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.


This year’s N.C. Whirligig Festival had a new attraction that capitalized on the city’s high-speed broadband while encouraging area youth to pursue careers in the ever-evolving world of technology.

Eighteen students took part in the half-day ethical hacking competition on Nov. 4 at Imagination Station designed by the Applied Physics Lab at John Hopkins University for the Mid-Atlantic Gigabit Innovation Collaboratory, or MAGIC, which is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Westminster, Maryland.

“Gamers search for ‘flags’ in bits of code while developing skills critical to cybersecurity fields facing major talent shortages such as reconnaissance, forensics and cryptography,” according to a press release.

All of the participants were mentored by tech professionals from area businesses while a hackathon was held simultaneously in Maryland.

“(MAGIC) recently sought a collaboration with Wilson for its first two-state event because the city has one of the only fully built-out, all-fiber optic gigabit networks on the east coast,” the release states. “The two events were video-synced to one another across their high-bandwidth networks and live-streamed on the web. Gamers competed for first, second and third-place recognition with other games at their local site.”

At the end of the competition, two teams shared a tie for first place. Nyan Cat, made up of Wilson Early College students Noelle Vollaro and Jarred Desrosiers along with coach Chris Mathews, tied with team Part-Time Gig, which represented N.C. State University, East Carolina University and Fike High School with members Joshua Canady, David Auge and Jordan Paldino along with coach Brandon Johnson.

“The video sync and live-stream demonstrated the real-time collaboration that is possible on next-generation communications networks like those in Wilson and Westminster, Maryland,” the release states. “National trends indicate that availability of both technology talent and high-speed broadband networks are among the two essential ingredients to supporting sector innovation and growth.”