The Hudson Alpha Tech Challenge! Congratulations to HA for Earning 2nd Place

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The Hudson Alpha Tech Challenge! Congratulations to HA for Earning 2nd Place

This past weekend marked a significant achievement for Houston Academy (HA) as our talented students showcased their skills at the prestigious Hudson Alpha Tech Challenge. Competing against a host of bright minds, sophomores Justin Bruner and Marcel Burque, along with juniors Rachael Davis and Libby Freeman, achieved an impressive second place. Teaming up with Enterprise, AL homeschooler Caleb North, the HA team excelled in their first-ever hackathon, delivering a cutting-edge solution to securely store and retrieve genomic data.

The Hudson Alpha Tech Challenge

What is the Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnology?

The Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnology is a renowned research institute located in Huntsville, Alabama. Known for its innovative approach to biotechnology and genomics, the institute is dedicated to improving human health and well-being through scientific discoveries. The Tech Challenge is one of their flagship events, designed to foster innovation, teamwork, and problem-solving skills among young tech enthusiasts.

The Competition Format

The Tech Challenge is a hackathon-style event that spans over 30 hours, during which participants are tasked with developing a solution to a complex problem. This year’s challenge focused on securely storing and retrieving genomic data, a critical aspect of modern biotechnology. Teams were judged based on creativity, technical skills, feasibility, and presentation.

Houston Academy’s Stellar Team

The Participants

Representing Houston Academy were sophomores Justin Bruner and Marcel Burque, and juniors Rachael Davis and Libby Freeman. This event was their debut in the world of hackathons, and their performance was nothing short of spectacular.

Justin Bruner

Justin Bruner, a sophomore, is known for his analytical thinking and problem-solving abilities. His interest in technology and coding made him an invaluable asset to the team.

Marcel Burque

Marcel Burque, also a sophomore, brought a keen understanding of data structures and algorithms to the table. His expertise played a crucial role in developing the team’s solution.

Rachael Davis

Rachael Davis, a junior, has a strong background in biology and biotechnology. Her knowledge helped bridge the gap between technological implementation and biological application.

Libby Freeman

Libby Freeman, another junior, excelled in project management and presentation skills. Her ability to communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively was vital during the final presentation.

Collaboration with Caleb North

The HA team was joined by Caleb North, a homeschooler from Enterprise, Alabama. Caleb’s homeschooling background brought a unique perspective to the team, and his technical proficiency complemented the skills of the HA students perfectly.

The Challenge: Securing Genomic Data

The Problem Statement

Genomic data is incredibly valuable for medical research and personalized medicine. However, the sheer volume and sensitivity of this data present significant challenges in terms of storage and security. The task was to develop a robust system that could securely store and efficiently retrieve genomic data while maintaining privacy and integrity.

The Solution

The team developed an innovative solution that combined cutting-edge encryption techniques with efficient data retrieval algorithms. They proposed a multi-layered encryption protocol to ensure data security, along with a high-speed indexing system for quick access. Their approach not only addressed the immediate problem but also offered scalability for future growth in genomic data storage needs.

Encryption Techniques

The team utilized advanced encryption standards (AES) and homomorphic encryption to protect the data. These techniques ensure that the data remains secure during both storage and retrieval processes.

Data Retrieval

To tackle the challenge of efficiently retrieving large datasets, the team implemented a high-speed indexing system. This system uses metadata tagging and machine learning algorithms to predict and streamline access patterns, significantly reducing retrieval times.

The Presentation

Presenting their solution was a critical component of the competition. Libby Freeman led the presentation, effectively communicating the technical intricacies and practical applications of their solution. The judges were impressed with the clarity and depth of understanding demonstrated by the team.

Achieving Second Place

The Competition

The HA team competed against several other teams from various schools and backgrounds. Despite being first-time participants, they demonstrated remarkable skill and composure throughout the event.

The Impact

Securing second place at such a prestigious event is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the HA students. This achievement not only highlights their technical abilities but also underscores the quality of education and mentorship provided by Houston Academy.

Reflections from the Team

Justin Bruner

“We went into this competition with a lot of excitement and a bit of nervousness, but it turned out to be an incredible learning experience. The teamwork and collaboration were phenomenal.”

Marcel Burque

“Being able to apply what we’ve learned in a real-world scenario was very rewarding. The challenge pushed us to think creatively and work efficiently under pressure.”

Rachael Davis

“This experience has opened my eyes to the possibilities within biotechnology. I’m more motivated than ever to pursue a career in this field.”

Libby Freeman

“Presenting our solution and seeing the positive response from the judges was amazing. It reinforced the importance of clear communication and teamwork.”

The Role of Mentorship and Support

Houston Academy’s Support System

The success of the HA team can be attributed in part to the strong support system at Houston Academy. Teachers, mentors, and parents played a crucial role in preparing the students for the competition.

Faculty Guidance

The faculty at Houston Academy provided invaluable guidance and resources to the team. Their expertise and encouragement were instrumental in helping the students refine their ideas and develop their solution.

Parental Support

The support from parents cannot be overstated. From providing logistical support to moral encouragement, the parents of the HA team members were integral to their success.

Looking Ahead

Future Opportunities

The experience at the Hudson Alpha Tech Challenge has ignited a passion for innovation and technology in the HA students. They are already looking forward to participating in more hackathons and competitions in the future.

Inspiring Others

Their achievement serves as an inspiration to other students at Houston Academy and beyond. It highlights the importance of stepping out of one’s comfort zone and embracing challenges.


Congratulations to the Houston Academy team for their outstanding performance at the Hudson Alpha Tech Challenge. Securing second place in their first-ever hackathon is a remarkable achievement that showcases their talent, teamwork, and dedication. This experience has not only broadened their horizons but also set the stage for future successes. With continued support and mentorship, there is no doubt that these students will continue to excel and make significant contributions to the field of biotechnology.