Senior Spotlight: Hali Huang creates a virtual marketplace for the Simbucks usage

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With Election Simulation season having to take place remotely, teachers and students involved with the simulation were left puzzled as to how to incorporate the simulation’s currency: simbucks. Usually, simbucks are distributed in class in paper form for the purchase of goods in bake sales and other fundraisers, and they are what allows the candidates and interest groups involved to pay for radio time and advertising; however, a physical form of currency was not an option this year. In response, senior Hali Huang stepped up and volunteered to make a website for simbuck usage.

Hali has been coding since his sophomore year, starting when he joined the Robotics programming subteam. His personal projects have included creating a Latin dictionary website, a news website, and a website for a nonprofit organization. His experience has now allowed him to create a new coding project while giving back to the school community. “I volunteered to do it because I thought I could contribute to this year’s Election Sim in a fresh way while doing what I loved to do,” he said. “Simbucks are also something that [are] a staple of every year’s Election Sim, and it just wouldn’t be the same without them.” 

“There were definitely some obstacles that popped up,” he shared. “I think one of them was just the timeframe I had to create the website in. I only came up with the idea near the end of September, and Election Sim was starting real[ly] soon, so I finished the majority of it in only about 5 days.” Despite the obstacles that came his way, students still found that the website exceeded their expectations. 

Junior Asha Suganthan found the system to be easy to use and organized.  “Compared to my experience with simbucks last year, I feel like this year’s process is much more organized and easy to keep up with,” and “with the website, it is easier to track what we can spend our simbucks on and there are more opportunities for prizes like gift cards.” 

Teacher responses were also quite positive. History teacher Jaime Baranoff commented, “[Hali] is able to combine his love of coding (and his amazing skill in that area!) with his Election Sim work.” She explained how Hali’s work has saved the Student Union and school administrators a great deal of stress this year: The Simbuck website has been a tremendous asset. It allows for us to manage Simbucks in a virtual environment which was one of the biggest challenges we faced going into this year’s Election Sim.” 

The candidates and special interest groups use this currency to propel their campaigns through commercials and time on the radio show. Senior Qazi Ali, who plays the role of Donald Trump in the Election Simulation, gave his take on the website. He said, “I think Hali did an excellent job with the task to create the simbucks website. There were some bumps in the beginning, but he immediately resolved them. Hali deserves an award!” 

Qazi also recognized the practicality of Hali’s contribution. “I do like the simbucks marketplace because, considering the circumstances that we are all in, this marketplace is an effective and efficient way to get the American people what they want in terms of fundraisers and help fund our amazing ads.” 

With an uncertain future ahead, it can be difficult to think about events as far as even next year. Nonetheless, Hali shared that he “could definitely see [the simbuck website] being part of future Election Sims,” saying that “it allows people to sell a greater variety of things. If you look at the simbuck market right now, you’ll see homework and essay checks, raffles, etc. These things were never sold before, and I think this format can allow people to come up with some really clever ideas.” 

With schools across the country being forced into a virtual alternative, the Election Simulation was at risk of lacking its most fundamental aspect, which would have completely altered the experience for both underclassmen and upperclassmen. However, Hali was ultimately able to translate the simbucks system into the virtual world, setting the groundwork for a new aspect of the virtual political simulation. 

Image taken from the Election Sim official website