Tags: #MusicHack, #STEMEverywhere, @PhillyJazzApp, civic apps, civic hacker, Civic Tech, hackathon, Innovation, Knight Foundation, Random Hacks of Kindness, Social Media, Technology, voter ID, Voter Participation, voting rights
Tag Archives: Random Hacks of Kindness
What’s Going On is a mobile web app that curates information about after-school and summer programs in Philadelphia.
While there are a number of databases that aggregate information about out-of-school-time programs, the information is not current. Parents and students are frustrated in their efforts to find safe, productive activities. The demand for academic enrichment programs will increase in the wake of the “doomsday” budget approved by the Philadelphia School Reform Commission.
In addition to the school budget crisis, Philadelphia’s digital divide is a chasm. Nearly half of Philly households do not have access to the Internet. So, many parents and students will search for safe and productive out-of-school-time activities at the public library or Keyspot public computer center. While Internet access is free, there is a time limit. Philadelphians on the wrong side of the digital divide are not free to sit there as long as it takes to find a program.
What’s Going On is at the intersection of technology, education and civic engagement. Program providers, parents and community members are invited to submit a program. The information is verified before the program is added to Wikidelphia, Philly’s local wiki.
In recognition of our efforts to promote civic engagement, the What’s Going On team has been invited to the White House to participate in the Champions of Change event which will highlight “extraordinary leaders in transformative civic hacking and civic engagement.”
The invitation reads:
On July 23, White House officials will participate in a discussion with these Champions to learn more about extraordinary individuals who are taking innovative approaches to engage citizens and communities in the practice of open government, civic participation, and civic hacking.
As a longtime champion of civic engagement, it’s an honor to be included in the mix.
Last weekend was the National Day of Civic Hacking, a two-day event that brought together technologists and subject matter experts “to create tools that make our city better.” I participated in the hackathon organized by TechnicallyPhilly.com and the City of Philadelphia at Drexel’s ExCITe Center.
I worked on a Code for Philly project with Chris Alfano and Jim Connor. We addressed the problem of the lack of a central source for information about after school and summer programs. There are a number of databases that compile information about out-of-school-time (OST) programs, but the information is not current. The demand for such programs will increase in the wake of the “doomsday” school budget recently approved by the School Reform Commission.
There’s no money and in nearly half of Philly households, no Internet access. So many parents and students will try to find out what’s going on at the library or Keyspot public computer center. While Internet access is free, users are not free to sit there as long as it takes to find a suitable program.
So we built a mobile web app that empowers parents and students to quickly access current information about after school and summer programs.
Users are able to search for programs by grade level, season (summer or year-round) and subject. What’s Going On is at the intersection of technology, education and civic engagement. The public is invited to submit a program. We will verify the information before adding the program to our community wiki, Wikidelphia.
An asset map of OST programs in Philadelphia, What’s Going On won first place. The project can serve as a national model for how developers, advocates, parents and community members can collaborate to expand access to programs that promote year-round learning and engagement.
I’ve now participated in nine hackathons. Random Hacks of Kindness will always be first in my heart. So I had some pep in my step as I walked to Drexel University’s brand new ExCITe Center for #RHoKPhilly.
I didn’t pitch a project.
We addressed the problem of limited access to healthy food, which is a contributing factor to the obesity crisis.
And developed a solution: Philly ForagR, a location-based app that promotes healthy living and well-being.
Users can enter their address to find the location of supermarkets, grocery stores, farmers markets, etc., that sell healthy foods. They will be provided with public transit and walking directions. The walking directions will include the location of historic markers, murals and other points of interest along the way.
With a few clicks, users will have access to healthy recipes that they can whip up with the food they purchased.
Philly ForagR placed third at #RHoKPhilly. The app is live so you can test it for yourself.
For updated information, follow us on Twitter: @PhillyForagr.
I’m a policy wonk and doer. This time last year, I didn’t have a clue what happened at a hackathon. I associated hackers with bad guys who stole identities and broke into websites. So you can imagine my delight to be introduced to a community of civic-minded hackers. Hackathons provide a platform for problem-solvers and do-gooders to collaborate and create interesting things.
My first hackathon was Random Hacks of Kindness in December 2011 at Drexel University. There, my team developed a prototype for the Cost of Freedom App to help users navigate their state’s voter ID application process. The app was reengineered by a hacker who works for Google at the Voting Information Project (VIP) Hackathon.
To date, I have participated in eight hackathons.
A lot of awesome prototypes are developed at hackathons. But to have an impact, the project must be sustained beyond the weekend. Like romance, a prototype without finance doesn’t stand a chance. So the team should include an evangelist who is passionate about the project. Someone who is willing to spend the time and energy it will take to get resources to build out the app. I was chief evangelist for the Cost of Freedom Project and Yo! Philly Votes.
If you build it, they will come. Right? Maybe. You have to market to your target audience. I partnered with national and local nonprofits to engage their members. I also used social networks and mainstream media to raise awareness of the civic apps.
A year later, I’m going back to where it all began — Random Hacks of Kindness, which will be held at Drexel’s new ExCITe Center. I’m, well, excited to give an update on Yo! Philly Votes and perhaps pitch a project.
I’m also excited about how the hackathon platform and collaborative mindset can spark interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). While a lot of serious coding takes place during hackathons, it’s not all work. They’re actually fun. Folks play games and banter back and forth. Truth be told, hackathons are cool. As Will.i.am observed:
Most kids are not dreaming of being programmers, scientists or engineers. The ones that are… are looked at as being geeks or uncool, when in actuality technology is the only thing that is cool today.
Hackathons or hackerspaces can help underrepresented minorities, particularly young black males, imagine a better future. They would be introduced to professionals who can connect STEM literacy to their day-to-day lives and career possibilities. Given the shifting demographics, it is an economic imperative that we inculcate interest in STEM subjects among black and Latino students.
This year, I underwent a professional makeover. In the coming year, I plan to organize hackerspaces, infused with a hip hop beat, to help give STEM a much-needed makeover.