Empowering Innovation: RTC’s Black Wings Hack-a-Thon Takes Flight

How One STEM Competition is Changing The Game

In a world rapidly changing thanks to technological advancements, fostering diversity and inclusion in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) has become an imperative. The Black Wings Hack-a-Thon organized by Rewriting the Code is an exemplary initiative aimed at empowering and showcasing the talents of college-aged girls in STEM.

Armed with the theme of “hacking for social good”, the objective of each team in the hack-a-thon was to develop a project that would impact the public in a positive way. The three-day event which took place in February saw a dramatic increase this year in both the number of attendees and total projects submitted. In the three previous Black Wings Hacks there were 77 total project submissions, in 2024 there were 60 submissions alone!

The growth of the event is due in large part to the community the event has fostered and the positive energy it has generated from both its participants and its partners. With corporate sponsorship from companies such as Apple, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley as well as contest judges representing Amazon Web Services, Google, and Capital One among many others the future of the event is extremely bright.

As a non-profit focused on supporting women in technology, Rewriting the Code (RTC) is the perfect organization to lead the charge for Black Wings Hacks. Serving as the perfect platform where young women can unleash their creativity, problem-solving skills, and technical acumen. The competition invites girls and non-binary individuals of all races to collaborate, innovate, and design apps that address real-world challenges. It emphasizes the importance of diversity in shaping the future of technology, fostering an environment where every participant can contribute unique perspectives to create meaningful solutions.

One of the most commendable aspects of the Black Wings Hack-a-Thon is its commitment to empowering innovation among young women and its strong sense of community. The presence of experienced mentors, some of whom are former BWHs attendees who have returned as judges, adds immense value to the Black Wings Hack-a-Thon.

Oftentimes we hear the expression “you can’t be it until you can see it”. This is why the presence of successful women in STEM, who are volunteering their time to guide and support the participants throughout the competition makes this event so incredibly valuable to the attendees who participate. The mentorship component serves as a catalyst for personal and professional growth, providing valuable insights and real-world perspectives that extend beyond the confines of the hack-a-thon.

With over $7,600 in prizes handed out including Apple AirPods Max, Bose headphones, Nintendo Switches and thousands in gift cards the competition is fierce. This year’s winner was a group who identified a problem of not feeling particularly safe on the streets of San Francisco and could not find any centralized application to help them deal with or prevent a dangerous situation. Together the group developed Guardianess, an app designed to check the safety levels of any given section of San Francisco, including built-in color displays to indicate higher danger and even an emergency panic button.

The achievement of apps like Guardianess and all the other incredible submissions helps break stereotypes and significantly contributes to bridging the gender gap in technology. Rewriting the Code's commitment to diversity and inclusion through initiatives like the Hack-a-Thon is not only commendable but crucial for shaping a more equitable and innovative future in STEM.