Canyon Crest students to host hackathon

A group of Canyon Crest Academy students launched the Helyx Initiative.

A group of Canyon Crest Academy students are holding another hackathon from Dec. 4-7 through the Helyx Initiative, a group they started in San Diego and expanded to chapters across the globe.

The upcoming virtual hackathon, Nucleotide Hackathon 2020, will be a three-day team event for high school students with any level of coding experience. The goal will be to build a program based on a theme that will be revealed in the opening ceremony of the hackathon.

Approximately $130,000 in software and prizes will be distributed to winners.

Sid Udata, a Canyon Crest Academy junior and Helyx Initiative chief marketing officer, said the Helyx Initiative’s virtual events, which are necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, have helped Helyx attract participants from throughout the U.S. and in multiple countries.

“Although it would be awesome to have in-person events where we can all collaborate and connect, I feel like an online format for these and forcing us to take an online format has been actually somewhat of a silver lining because now we’re able to expand internationally,” he said. “Obviously we wouldn’t expect people to fly in from other countries for our event.”

The students who lead the Helyx Initiative also said they received a lot of positive feedback about their previous hackathon in April.

Sarah Gao, the Helyx Initiative’s director of events and assistant CEO, said the group is “working on promoting more gender diversity.” The nearly 600 signups so far for the December hackathon are divided almost equally between boys and girls, she said. By comparison, the student hackathon league Major League Hacking reported last year that its hackathon attendance averaged about three-fourths male and one-quarter female.

Over the past several months, the Helyx Initiative has grown to about 2,600 members all over the world. The initiative is also holding bioinformatics workshops and has its second International Youth Research Summit, featuring high school students presenting their research and prizes to be awarded, coming up in January.

“We really weren’t expecting when we started to get this big,” said Canyon Crest junior Andrew Gao, the Helyx Initiative’s founder and president. “It was definitely a surprise. But we realize that a lot of students, especially because of COVID-19 and being stuck home, are really interested in the idea of doing science research from home. So we found that Helyx was in a really great position to provide this opportunity.”

For more information about the Helyx Initiative’s December Hackathon, visit