24 Sep 2014
Causathon: The Altruistic Side of Hacking
24 Sep 2014
My cross-country journey comes to close as I write this on a planeheading back from LAX. As I look out across the skyline, I reflect back on a weekend of hacking for good.
The final hour was upon us at General Assembly’s (GA) Santa Monica office. Sunlight seeped through the large windows, exposing a mixture of hope and determination on participants’ faces.11 teams had been coding away for the past 23 hours as part of Brand-Knew’s inaugural hackathon, Causathon, a #hackforgood event created to tackle the gap between the non-profit sector and the tech world. Each participating team was partnered with a non-profit to create a solution to an assigned social problem within a 24 hour period.Representing Mailjet as a sponsor, I was soon to make the toughest decision of the weekend — crowning our API contest winner. The team with the most innovative and impactful hack would go home with a Parrot A.R. Drone, in addition to the one month premium Mailjet subscription given to each Causathon participant.
Over the course of the night, the GA hall saw a delightful synergy of engineering and creativity. I had spent the earlier hours of the hackathon setting teams up with free accounts and educating developers on how to integrate with our APIs. Teams were assigned a range of social issues from education for disadvantaged youth to Parkinson’s and poverty.
Each team took their own approach to tackling their recently assigned project. Some went to the back to the white boards, carefully diagraming, wireframing out an approach, while others dove right into the deep end — fired up their terminals, opened their text editors and started writing code. The languages of choice seemed to be Objective-C (iOS) and Ruby on Rails.
As the clock neared midnight and teams began to get to the heart of their hacks, I worked to re-inject energy into the crowd with an email tech talk, a few rounds of Red Bull, and then proceed to fire up the Parrot A.R. Drone and fly it around. Maneuvering it all around the hall, I hovered close over each of the participating teams’ tables; it could be seen that the cool downwash from propellers was just what the hackers needed to keep going through the night.
When the 24 hour countdown reached zero, it was time to hear the presentations. So many great ideas paired with equally awesome execution! Teams proposed a range of solutions from helping Parkinson’s patients with transportation to encouraging youth to vote by educating them on various political candidates via a “Tinder-like” app to a safe social platform for Middle Eastern citizens to anonymously voice their thoughts. It was time to decide the winners…
After a long period of deliberation, the Mailjet API winning title was given to Raymond and Mengmeng for their Enough Project app. They truly hit it over the fence with their hack to end genocide and crimes against humanity. The seamless and elegant Enough Projectsolution makes it easy for people to get involved, to spread awareness and take action. With just a few clicks, a user can send personalized emails to friends about various human rights issues around the globe.
Overall, it was a true honor to work beside all of the altruistic hackers at Causathon, to see their ideas grow into something tangible that will drive positive, meaningful change in the world. It could definitely be said that no matter who went home with the prize, every participant won at making a difference.
Over and out.