Students, Professionals and Local Leaders Come Together for Charleston Social Good Hackathon

Mar 26, 2019 12:00 PM ET
Blog

What happens when you get 85+ coders, 60+ volunteers and mentors, and a plethora of industry specialists together for one targeted effort to combat the world’s biggest challenges?

Booz Allen Hamilton’s Charleston Digital Hub and Charleston Open Source wanted to find out - and so on February 23, 2019, they assembled a group for the Charleston Digital Hub Hackathon, an intense, one-day coding sprint that challenged participants to create open-source solutions to tackle one of four United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The four chosen SDGs represented issues that are immediate and clear to the local Charleston area:

  • Quality Education
  • Climate Action
  • Clean and Affordable Energy
  • Sustainable Cities and Communities

Participants from a variety of backgrounds, including industry professionals and students from more than ten colleges, were given large-scale, publicly available datasets related to each of the goals. They were encouraged to use the data to build and implement a technical solution that could help achieve the goals.

The team that took home the “Best in Show” award built an SMS-based learning and tutoring system to help achieve quality education for all. This system leveraged a variety of technologies, including AirTable, Twilio and Dialog Flow, to connect students anonymously in countries with less-than-optimal internet/cellular infrastructure to tutors to help educate them on a variety of subjects.

The runner-up project was Recycle.ly, a mobile app that would allow companies and organizations to incentivize office recycling. Employees could use their cell phones to scan any recyclable object and receive Recycle.ly points, which could be spent in a company store for rewards, such as an extra day of PTO, an extra lunch hour or a cash bonus. 

“The projects that teams developed in such a short span of time are incredibly inspiring,” said Carson Smith, staff technologist at Booz Allen and one of the Hackathon’s lead organizers. “For this group to come together and strive to change the world in such a focused and dedicated time is truly amazing.” 

The event drew outside interest, as well, including a visit from Charleston’s new Congressman. Representative Joe Cunningham (D-SC-01) stopped by to tour the event, meet with constituents and congratulate the organizers and participants for coming together for a great cause. Congressman Cunningham noted, “It was remarkable to see the innovation that’s possible when a group of highly motivated individuals put their minds together to work in a collaborative way. The challenges facing our nation will require 21st century solutions, and the young people I met are more than up to the challenge.”

Booz Allen’s Kirk Borne, one of the world’s top data science influencers, also attended and gave an inspiring presentation around “Data Science for Good,” capping off the success of the event and encouraging participants to continue the mission.

“This Hackathon was a huge success and we cannot wait to continue the tradition moving forward,” said Smith. 

Read about Booz Allen’s Charleston Digital Hub here.