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Hacking Down Hunger and Homelessness

Civic Engagement Meets Tech

Hackers will converge upon Syracuse’s Tech Garden this weekend armed with technology and ready to develop applications that address hunger and homelessness.

Hack Hunger and Homelessness is intended to drum up submissions for a  60 day virtual Hackathon hosted by the Tech Garden alongside AT&T, SUNY Oswego, Hack Upstate, Girls in Tech, Centerstate CEO and Syracuse University. This virtual Hackathon challenges programmers to create apps that address issues present in their communities.

Registration for Hack Hunger and Homelessness begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday November 8. Hacking will begin at 12 p.m. and experts will be available for office hours all day. Hacking will end at 11:59 a.m. November 9. The judges will be introduced at 12 p.m. and demos and presentations begin fifteen minutes later. Awards will be distributed at 1:45 p.m.

photo: techtransfer.syr.edu

photo: techtransfer.syr.edu

Hack Hunger and homelessness is the third civic Hackathon on the Tech Garden’s fall calendar: Pro Literacy held in September, Hack Upstate held in October, and this weekend’s Hack Hunger and Homelessness are meant to promote the virtual hackathon and give developers guidance as they think about civic issues, said Tony Kershaw, Innovation Specialist at the Tech Garden.

“I thought that it would be a great idea to try to tackle this issue by taking the people who deal with these issues on a day to day basis. … And team them up with the technologists that are developing different apps,” said Kershaw.

Kershaw said that technology can play an important role assisting those who deal with hunger and homelessness issues.

“Technology is usually built to solve a very specific problem. Whereas homelessness is an amorphous, human and very personal issue,” said Kershaw “Can technology solve it? The honest answer is probably not. Is there one app that can solve homelessness in one shot? No I don’t think so, but can technology help those decision makers?

Kershaw reached out to several organizations to partner with the Tech Garden.

“We approached the matter as in we want to help you but you need to educate us on the issues that you face,” said Kershaw, “Which was part of the reason why we were trying to crowdsource those challenges … It was sort of like an awkward dance at a prom. … Once the awkwardness is over you have a good platform to understand how to do more”

Among the organizations the Tech garden is partnering with is the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. Lisa DeJonge, Program Manager for Community Engagement and Innovation at the IVMF, thinks that balancing technology with a human touch will allow for progress. “I think that technology is definitely our bridge to helping folks and getting them where they need to be,” said DeJonge.

“I really think really stopping issues in their tracks is really going to take everyone coming together and technology being at the forefront,” said DeJonge, “How do you get so many people to start working together that aren’t in the same building? There is no other way than technology at this point.”

DeJonge would like to see technology that helps overwhelmed case managers. “I’ve thought of some pretty extensive fun ones, well it was fun to me I don’t know how fun it would be to everyone else,” said DeJonge, “I was thinking along the lines of a case-load identifier. … Something for the supervising case manager where caseloads can be monitored, and if a case manager starts to get overwhelmed some of those cases are moved, something that levels the cases.”

DeJonge plans to be available for office hours during the Hackathon to guide participants as they develop ways to hack hunger and homelessness.

Submissions from Hack Hunger and Homelessness will be eligible for  the 60 day virtual Hackathon. Submissions are due on Tuesday November 11 at 11:59 p.m. and the awards ceremony/demo will be held on Wednesday November 19. The submissions will be divided into Ongoing Apps and New Projects. Winners in both categories will receive $7,500 and runners up will receive $1,500.

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