Ericsson and AT&T hosted a 36-hour coding challenge in lower Manhattan this weekend, running simultaneously with the Social Good Summit at the 92Y uptown.
About 100 people volunteered to create new applications that help solve some of the world’s major challenges. For the best innovative app focusing on education, Ericsson offered a scholarship for a girl to go to secondary school in the name of that team.
This particular event is the 28th hackathon for Alex Donn, Senior Marketing Manager at the AT&T Developer Program. He says: "A hackathon is at its core about thinking out of the box." This year’s theme of social good brought a new element to Donn’s experience.
"Traditionally at hackathons, the code goes away after the weekend. With this we want to instill a bit of longevity, still allowing coders to tinker with new ideas and technology, but pairing them with non-governmental organizations that need basic utility applications, like adding a ‘like’ button on social media. The results will then last longer," he said.
Participants broke into 24 teams for the day. Sunday night, each team gave a three-minute pitch and demonstration of their apps in front of the judging panel, comprising experts from companies including AT&T, Ericsson and Samsung. The overall winner was DecisionMakr, which allows Twitter users to give qualitative and quantitative feedback to decision-makers at conferences, town halls and other public events. The app will be used by Yale University at the Climate COP meeting in Doha this December.
In second place was AA-Aid, an app to help alcoholics find meetings through crowd-sourcing and a semi-anonymous support network. The team in third place came up with an app called Hope that allows food donors and charities to better communicate what food they have, how much, and help plan the best routes and prioritize food pickup for charities in order to conserve resources.
The Connect to Learn scholarship will be given in the name of Tug-O-Learn, a team of young New Yorkers. Khaliq Gant, Will Washburn and Luke Hristou knew each other before coming to the hackathon, but had not planned any ideas until the competition started. Ultimately, they chose to build an app around using the "Sphero" device because, in their words: "It’s awesome."
The "Sphero" ball is a remote-controlled device that moves when commands are sent to it via a mobile device. In Tug-O-Learn, one student invites another student to a game. A random math question appears on the screens of both, and the first one to answer correctly sees the ball come closer. The first to get the ball wins. Gant says: "We wanted to make learning tangible, so when you see the ball coming toward you, you know you have achieved something."
Geoff Hollingworth (second from left) and the Tug-o-Learn team.
Ericsson’s Geoff Hollingworth (pictured, second from left, with the Tug-o-Learn team), in announcing the Connect to Learn winners, said: "Making it (learning) fun is what tipped this one for us. It’s simple and appealing."
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