I was recently invited to speak at HackDuke in North Carolina to attend their “Code for Good” hackathon. My mission was simple: Inspire the audience to make a difference.
Let’s set stage….
HackDuke, Duke University, North Carolina. Event Name: Code For Good
A buzz fills the room with electric energy as hundreds of students, engineers, designers, and non-profit organizations fill the entry hall. All of these students are here for one reason: To apply their technology skills to make the world a better place.
Zppppt , the swag at each sponsor’s table is gone. Everywhere we turn students are asking questions varying in size and complexity from “What’s the best stack for landing a job”, “What are the best languages to use during a hackathon”, to “What’s the most impactful hackathon project you’ve ever seen?”
I answer diligently, all the while impressed by their vigor.
With the Hackduke team (like, 20 of them!) ready to kick-off we were all ushered into the main auditorium. It was time to see what the event was about. So, what WAS the event about?
"HackDuke is not just about building meaningful projects. It’s also an open forum to discuss, share and bring to life ideas that aim to make a positive impact on social issues. Look forward to working with experts from non-profits and coding alongside mentors from tech companies!HackDuke encourages students to venture beyond the classroom. Learn how your skills can be used to make a difference other people’s lives.”
Ok - I cheated a little bit there - I took that directly from their homepage, http://www.hackduke.com.
We have been heavily involved in the civic tech scene for over a year now, with 6 major civic tech events to show for in the #hack4good series. We’ve seen a lot, and although we are still learning (never stop!), we have great stories to share.
And share we did - we spoke about apps built to save the rainforest (check out http://treetag.org), apps to save lives (Typhoon Yolanda), and civic hackathons world-wide (#hack4good 0.5). We spoke about scalability, design, and how to think outside the box to create real world solutions. Most importantly; we spoke of Impact. The real, lasting impact that these projects can make in the lives of those around them.
As always I was surprised at the level of thought, aptitude, and functionality displayed during the final presentations. There were projects ranging from an education tracker for Syrian refugees to a self-diagnostic tool for cervical cancer (yes, including hardware designed by the schools research department). I can’t possibly cover them all, but I would love to give a quick description of the 3 winners in each of the 3 categories.
Changing the World – Education, Inequality, and Health & Wellness
By Tyler Nisonoff, Chinmay Patwardhan, and Michael Lai, all from Duke University, won the education track. Their idea was simple: Through their custom website students take control of the class by uploading course notes and other study guides. Participation is encouraged through a gamification model, which rewards points based on actions completed on the site.
They chose to donate their prize to Teach for America.
Alex Browne is from Duke U and his solo hack “Bullhorn” won the inequality track, by addressing an issue prompted by a local non-profit, the Urban Ministries of Durham. UMD helps the poor and homeless connect to sources of food, shelter, and other resources. His hack allows UMD to better communicate with their clients, by allowing those looking for resources to subscribe to “broadcasts” sent out by UMD on their phone, which eliminates the need to be connected to the Internet.
He chose to donate his prize to UMD.
Built by James Magnarilli from Northeastern U, Abhishek Bobo Bose-Kolanu from Duke U, Siddartha Tondapu from Virginia Tech and Zachary Fogg from University of Maryland, and won the Health and Wellness track. Mamoru means “to protect” in Japanese and is an emergency contact app that alerts your friends if you don’t check in when you’re supposed to.
Mamoru chose to donate their prize to DurhamCares.
Having skills in technology is one thing; using those skills to help those in need is something in itself. The quality and caliber of character the students & volunteers at Duke University displayed in their work with the local non-profit organizations was nothing short of inspiring, and I am proud to have been a part of this event.
I’m looking forward to the next Code for Good with HackDuke, and I hope next time you will all join us there. Let’s make this world a better place, one line of code at a time J.
VP of Ops, Geeklist