Students in the age range of 14-19 gathered in the new coding school kood/Jõhvi in Ida-Viru County on the eastern border of Estonia. They formed 15 teams building products like getting voice assistance from Chat GPT, measuring your everyday carbon footprint, taking better care of your domestic animals and plants and recycling food.

“Hüppelaud Summer School is an opportunity for teenagers to build an actual tech product that would help solve some real-life problems while working as a team,” said event organizer Ede Tamkivi. “This year we chose kood/Jõhvi as a location because it’s a new programming school that operates without teachers – just like we do at Hüppelaud where it’s all about teamwork and assistance from world-class mentors.”

The mentors include developers, designers and data analysts from several well-known Estonian startups like Wise and Bolt. Almost half of the mentors have been participants at Hüppelaud during its previous years. There were also three Stanford students, two of whom were interning at Vabamu, represented among the mentors.

In previous years, there have been many participants who study abroad taking part of Hüppelaud, but this year the group was even more international as there were five students from Uzbekistan and mentors arriving from the US, Australia, the UK and the Netherlands.

In between building their products the participants could also listen to inspirational talks by internationally acclaimed founders and scientists like Kärt Siilats, the founder of Mojo Capital, Martin Sokk, the founder of investment platform Lightyear, Denys Kovalenko who runs AI experimental team at Bolt and a researcher for antiviral drugs, Carmen Kivisild.

There were also several outings during the week – for example a tour to a former coal mine and a visit to the local military base in Jõhvi to learn about how Estonian defence systems operate, especially the cyber security.

Among the products that were presented on the fifth day, there was one that was called AquaSweep – a water surface cleaning device.

“We have often seen many small pools and ponds full of dirt like fallen leaves and dead bugs and no-one seems to want to take the trouble of cleaning them, therefore we came to the idea of building a machine that would do the job easily,” said two of the team members, Tarvi Imala and Kristjan Kaljukivi. “Hüppelaud is just a perfect place to build a product like this because there are so many smart people around to ask questions from who have built similar products before.”

Mukhabbat Khatamova, who built an app called SafeFood with her team, wants to help diminish the waste of food at restaurants as well as home kitchens. “Our team are from Uzbekistan where it is very common for people to have big parties – a wedding can easily host 500 guests – and there is a lot of food, much of it is left over and simply thrown out. At the same time there are people starving somewhere nearby.”

Mukhabbat and her teammates really liked the atmoshpere and work discipline at Hüppelaud and the Dev Sprint programming crash course offered by kood/Jõhvi: “We are currently studying in the Finest Future programme in Finnish high schools but many of them do not offer any programming courses. This is all completely new to me: being able to come to Estonia and learn programming!”

Hüppelaud Summer School first took place in 2017 in Tartu and so far, 450 students and a hundred mentors have participated building 70 products. Over the years the biggest supporters have been Wise and Startup Estonia.

Photos by Mihkel Jesse