Hackathon Leads to Innovative Hacks to Improve City Life

Nicole Johnson | MITechNews.Com

DETROIT – The College of Creative Studies hosted an all-night Hackathon this week, kicking off the Meeting of the Minds conference focused on urban sustainability and technology. The winning team earned $5,000.

The event was sponsored by Qualcomm and encouraged developers to arrive Tuesday night and develop a product by Wednesday morning. The five teams presented before the conference began with the top three teams advancing to present what they developed to the entire conference.

 Cisco was also a sponsor of the event and offered an energy management platform as an option for teams to integrate into their final designs.

 The Hackathon’s goal was for each team to create a product that would benefit a city or provide a solution to a problem. Most of the entries were web-based mobile applications.

 “Hackathons are a great way for developers to come into a positive environment, quickly prototype ideas they’ve had rattling around in their head and get them out for the world to see,” said Hackathon Organizer Eric Wu.

 The youngest participants were a team composed of a 14- and 15-year-old girl and boy.

 This was such a fun experience and I plan to do more in the future,” said Katt M., the 14-year-old competitor. She and her partner plan to hone their solution to present to more government leaders, she said.

 This young team developed a crowd-sourced bus tracking system to pinpoint when a bus would arrive at a stop. They got the idea from waiting for a bus to travel to their VEX Robotics program. They enjoyed the robotics program so much they decided to compete in the Hackathon to grow their skills.

 There also were great ideas generated in the late hours. For example, the teamCome Together was created by several people from Digital Labs and helped rally community support.

 The winning entry from Michael Evans, called Ourselves started with a simple Graphical User Interface to report or fix an issue in the city. It integrated the idea of providing bounties for the work while integrating photos and a map locater for each parcel. This ability to apply a break-fix model through technology provided the winning edge.

 Two groups took the approach of highlighting points of interest within a city. One team from the University of Michigan used a Google map overlay to highlight by category various city services or points of interest in their solution called My City. Olivia W. worked on her app called Walkable inspired from crowd source design sites like Pinterest. It allows the user to map walks while adding images of art or attractions along the way. The goal is to highlight on a social platform the walkable beauty of a city.

 Added Olivia: “This is the nicest venue I have ever seen for a Hackathon. I got a lot of satisfaction out of the experience making and creating.”

 The conference continued to grow the urban conversation among the 375 government and technology professionals who attended. Indeed, the Hackathon proved to be a great way to not only kick off the event, but also demonstrate the power of innovation.

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