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Facebook and Gates Foundation join forces to promote education

After a successful education-focused hackathon last year, the two tech giants are expanding the program with two events, female teams, and prizes for the best ed tech apps.

Facebook and the Gates Foundation "HackEd" event at Facebook's campus in September 2012. Facebook

Facebook and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have joined forces again to help develop more tech tools for education and learning. It's time for HackEd 2.0.

The tech giants will be hosting two all-day hackathons this month, a Facebook spokesperson told CNET. More than 20 teams of tech education enthusiasts, education experts, and top-notch developers will spend April 9 at Facebook's Menlo Park headquarters brainstorming, coding, and building apps. A similar event will take place on April 24 in Facebook's London office.

Those apps then will be judged by a panel of experts -- including Facebook and Gates representatives and some venture capitalists -- and the winners will get cash awards in categories such as college-going, social learning, and out-of-school study.

"Historically, the notion of the 'achievement gap' has been thought of as primarily academic," the Facebook spokesperson told CNET. "The debate has focused on the long-term structural challenges -- improving teacher quality, creating school choice, and other issues. These are all important issues but in the age of social media, we have an opportunity to achieve real progress, right now."

The two tech giants first worked in education-focused hackathons last September with their inaugural HackEd event. The experience was such a success that they decided to do it again with the expanded program.

Both companies have encouraged female engineers to participate in the hackathons. Facebook and the Gates Foundation worked with the Hackbright Academy to bring in all-female teams for the Menlo Park event. The Hackbright Academy has a training program designed to get more women involved in programming and engineering.

Both former Microsoft Chief Executive Bill Gates and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg have donated millions to educational causes. The goal of the first HackEd was to kick off the Gates Foundation's $2.5 million investment fund called the College Knowledge Challenge, which is dedicated to getting developers to build apps for students. Zuckerberg has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to public schools and education nonprofits.

Corrected at 12:10 p.m. PT to say Facebook and the Gates Foundation worked with the Hackbright Academy. The story incorrectly stated it was a partnership.