2021 HTML Contest: “How to Look Cool Online”

Who won? How was it designed? What was the student experience?

By Ann Wright, EchoX Executive Director

The 2021 HTML Contest: “How to Look Cool Online” was conceived by Jacob Arnez, a member of the EchoX DIGITIZE Youth Council. During Jacob’s last year in DIGITIZE, he wanted to enable other youth to use HTML to gain more control in their personal expression. In order to help realize Jacob’s vision, EchoX assembled an amazing, collaborative workshop team which met for six weeks this summer.   

Jacob and this team of skillful and generous volunteers planned a remote HTML coding workshop to teach student participants how to create their own personal websites. As they developed the workshop, one serious consideration was what strategy to employ in ensuring the students would be genuinely engaged. In other words, how to capture the attention of high school students who have endured over a year of remote pandemic learning!

As the workshop was a pilot program, we weren’t sure what to expect in terms of student enjoyment and feelings of success. We knew most of the students had no HTML or coding experience and would only receive introductory instruction. Yet the students blew us away with their final websites and experiences!

Here are some comments from the students:

  • I found this workshop to be diverse, inclusive, and welcoming. I liked how everyone came from both different tech-experience backgrounds as well as heritage backgrounds and that people were understanding of the different experiences we had gone through.
  • I thought coding was dull and boring, but there is a creative side as well!
  • I liked how welcoming and approachable every aspect felt. It was nice to know that every question was a good question and the learning atmosphere felt safe and inclusive.
  • I think web development can be used to address social issues. 
  • When I think about expressing myself online, I think about posting on social media, but I’ve never considered creating a whole website for it. It’s cool to be able to build your own platform.
  • Before I joined the workshop, I was too scared to start coding because it seemed daunting. Now I know the basics and plan on learning more!

Upon seeing the students’ final websites, Aaron Ottinger, EchoX Education Consultant, expressed this sentiment:

The young students who participated in this program were curious, creative, and enthusiastic. They produced websites that reflected their identities, passions, and social concerns. This workshop and the students’ final projects were unique because they avoided the cookie-cutter templates that most website platforms offer today. Instead, the students designed and created their websites from the ground up… What these students accomplished in two weeks was nothing less than impressive!

When Jacob saw the students’ final websites, this is what he said:

“They all had a niche that felt very personal to each of the website’s creators. There’s a lot more they can build on and that’s kind of what I was hoping for when they made their websites – something that they can continue to tinker on past the workshop!”

After the end of the workshop, each student had the opportunity to enter their websites into the The 2021 HTML Contest: “How to Look Cool Online.” This contest was comprised of four categories: Best Implementation of Technical Features, Best Community Reflection, Best Storytelling, and Best Overall. 

Now that the workshop and the contest has come to a close, I sincerely thank the community volunteers who comprised the Workshop Team and the Judges’ Panel. As the Executive Director of EchoX, it is my immense pleasure to reveal the winners of each of those categories and tell them CONGRATULATIONS!!!


Note: To respect student participant privacy, we have only highlighted what work they consented to publishing 


Student: Hidaya Abdinur

High School: Middle College

Personal Statement: “My website is a biography of my grandmother who immigrated from Ethopia:  Over the summer, I spent time with my grandmother and realized how little I knew about her. I began by asking her a series of generic questions about her childhood, which she flatly refused to answer. Late at night, I decided to try again, and to my astonishment, she began telling me countless stories. It isn’t, however, the story I told or attempted to tell; the story I tried to convey was mine. My process of getting to my grandmother.”

Judges’ Feedback: Hidaya’s site embeds the audience in evocative storytelling, unexpected humor, and the sincere invitation to participate and contribute in the creator’s process and self-reflection. The experience successfully subverts the audience’s expectations and I loved that I never knew what was coming next! But by moving between memes and a candid discussion of how the way we tell stories is culturally situated, I really appreciated how the site offers a self-aware account of what it means to encounter our cultural, narrative, and formal expectations and be left learning something entirely new. 


Student: Pauline Adonis

High School: Franklin

Personal statement: “My website details the intersection between nature, ancient reptiles, modern fashion trends, and how they evolve over space and time. I drew inspiration from topics I often see on social media and on the internet, as well as my own personal interests and my first-hand experiences with them. Hopefully my website inspires people to take up a new passion, and also serve as a resource for fashion, nature, and science lovers alike to learn ways on how to make their fields more just.” 

Judges’ Feedback: This site’s narrative unfolds deftly from animal to symbol to commodity to community across time and space while offering stakes that are local and global. Throughout this site, moving between unexpected connections offers a really compelling account of how branding and vision appeals to and impacts different audiences while also excluding others. I especially love how the site makes the clever move to evoke the story of literal evolution while also considering how an image/trademark carries its evolving significance between the changing contributions of creators and communities. 


Student: Brendan Wiederien

High School: Issaquah

Personal Statement: My website is meant to be a wormhole and take the audience on a nonlinear path to the concepts I express in my photographs and poems. I really like how publishing a website enables me to present pieces as professionally as a book but with the creativity opened by crafting patterns of light through coding.” 

Judges’ Feedback: This site is such an immersive experience: it creates a sense of place through its images and poetic imagery while also giving the user a feeling of organic exploration through that space. The site map is such an original way to provide access to the creator’s poems and I loved encountering the poetic themes of discovery or new recognition in my own experience on the site, especially in the closing lines of “An Apartment is not a Cave.” Thank you so much for sharing your art, Brendan! 


Student: Christy Intholay  

High School: Rainier Beach

Personal Statement: “My website is a place where I share my art with others and through my art I also want to share my struggles as an Asian American!”

Judges’ Feedback: This site very successfully displays and highlights Christy’s art as images while also providing the audience a kind of intimacy with them as an artist and their artistic process. The reflection of identity and culture as it intersects with the featured art gives additional purpose and context to the images while also creating anticipation for the art that will come next. I especially connected to “Speak” through its caption and title. Thank you so much for sharing your art, Christy!


Aaron Ottinger is the Education Consultant to EchoX’s DIGITIZE Program. He has taught digital culture, literature, and writing & rhetoric at many Seattle-area colleges and universities since 2008. His most recent research focuses on the intersection between digital technology, social justice, and the environment.

Amy Imsdahl is a current Masters student at UW’s Leadership Program and technological/communication support for EchoX.  

Ann Wright is a mom of three and the Executive Director of EchoX. She is passionate about offering a space for teens to support each other as they express their identities, cultures, and heritage.

Fariha Zainab is graduate from Seattle University’s Computer Science Masters Program.

Hasibur Rahman is a software engineer at Microsoft where he has over a decade of software development experience.

Jacob Arnez is a founding member of the DIGITIZE Youth Council and a recent graduate of Jackson High School. As well as the creator of this workshop concept.  He has just started University of Portland where he plans to major in C.S. He became interested in web development to create online content without having to go through social media sites like Instagram or Youtube.


Carolyn Callaghan is a Library and Information Science graduate of the University of Washington’s Information School and a PhD Candidate in English Literature. She studies book history, textuality, digital humanities, and information literacy. She is especially interested in the ways that digital spaces build community, improve access to resources, and innovate how we create cultural memory and share collective narratives.

Jacob Arnez is a founding member of the DIGITIZE Youth Council and a recent graduate of Jackson High School. He has just started University of Portland where he plans to major in C.S. He became interested in web development to create online content without having to go through social media sites like Instagram or Youtube.

Randy Pagulayan is the Senior Director of Research for gaming at Microsoft. As a pioneer in this space, Randy has led user research efforts on numerous high-profile franchises, including Age of Empires and Halo, as well user research across Microsoft’s gaming services and platforms. Throughout his career, he has co-authored several book chapters on user research methods in gaming, given numerous talks and keynotes internationally, and has been featured in Wired magazine, National Public Radio, and Official Xbox Magazine (OXM). Randy has a BA in Psychology from the University of Maryland, and a PhD in Experimental Psychology from the University of Cincinnati.

Rav Kang holds a BSc (Hons) as well as a MSc and a C&G in Education. He has held numerous jobs in large corporations such as Cadbury’s, Tarmac PLC, and Spicers (UK). Kang has been at Highline College since 2001,and currently teaches Computer Science, Gaming, Web and Mobile App Development. He also develops and manages numerous database driven websites.