The Helyx Initiative: Canyon Crest Academy students to host hackathon

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

The Helyx Initiative, started by a group of Canyon Crest Academy students, is holding a hackathon April 10-12 with a $400 grand prize.

The initiative started as a way to demonstrate the ways biology, math and computer science are related. It has since grown to multiple chapters around with world with about 125 members in 12 countries.

According to two of the students who launched the organization, school curriculums don’t typically convey the correlation among those fields.

“In the real research world, these fields are always connected,” said Canyon Crest sophomore Andrew Gao, 16, founder and president of the Helyx Initiative. “You need coding and biology, and you definitely need math and biology too.”

The hackathon, which offers individuals and teams a chance to create a software project, will be hosted on the Helyx Discord server. It will begin April 10 at 10 a.m. with an opening ceremony.

Workshops and seminars, taking place on the Zoom videoconferencing software, will begin April 11 at 6 p.m. The hackathon projects wil be due on April 12 at 5:30 p.m. followed by judging. Award presentation and closing ceremonies will be at 8:30 p.m.

In addition to the grand prize, there will be a $200 prize for second place and a $100 prize for third. There will also be $25 Amazon gift cards awarded to the winners of multiple categories, including best design, most innovative, best presentation and most socially impactful.

When he decided to start Helyx, Andrew said he reached out to friends, including Mason Holmes, who now serves as the organization’s chief development officer, and Joanne Lee, its editor in chief. Other student leaders include Sid Udata, chief marketing officer; William Kang, assistant technical officer; and Yash Gupta, chief technical officer.

“We thought we’d be a fill-in for the gap,” said Yash, 15, a sophomore at Canyon Crest Academy. “We only saw it as a local goal, but now it’s hitting international. We’re really proud of that.”

Yash added that the hackathon helps illuminate the concepts that the Helyx Initiative wants to promote.

“I know how crucial it is and how fun they are, and how accessible STEM becomes just because of them,” he said.

Long term, Andrew said Helyx’s goals include doing more international outreach, getting more of its research published and creating a program that helps other Helyx chapters host their own hackathons.

The Helyx Initiative also has a series of research groups that students can join online. One of them focuses on COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Students are using the Python coding language to perform data analysis to monitor the spread of the disease and identify noteworthy trends.

The group has also raised approximately $500 to buy N95 face masks for hospitals as they battle the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re really trying to be very active in the community,” Andrew said.

For more information about the Helyx Initiative, visit Registration for the hackathon is free. The sign-up form and other information is available at