HVTechFest'21 Hackathon Recap

The third Hudson Valley Tech Hackathon was held virtually on October 29-30th on Zoom and Discord. The theme was ‘Digital Collaboration/Using Open Data For Social Good’ and our Hackers really took that and ran with it! More on their innovative projects coming up soon - don’t miss it.

This year’s Hackathon was a smashing success, people from all around Hudson Valley (and the world) joined us for a weekend of learning, coding, problem-solving, and productive collaboration! There was lots of fun to be had while meeting new people and teaming up to solve problems, bring the community together, and learn something new. 

Starting off with our Pre-Hack workshops on Design Thinking and Open Data gave the participants a foundation to work with, and they certainly used it well. The Hackathon started with a Kick-Off by Andrea Tejedor and a message from one of our sponsors Think Dutchess on the value of the Hackathon for creating inclusivity in our currently more and more digital world.

Our challenge was introduced, ideas were pitched, teams were formed, and everyone got ready to work on:

  • Connect and engage people seeking to locate information, find local goods and services, and align with the businesses and organizations offering them. 
  • Improving the regions’ resilience, empowering users and makers.
  • Support an open data information initiative that utilizes existing county-by-county data and datasets provided by OpenData NY.
  • Collaborate by sharing relevant data with consumers and producers to support the local economy.

After 20 hours of hard work and collaborative development, all the teams were ready to present their projects on Day 2! They made great use of the ample resources provided in the Hackathon toolkit like Open Data sets, programming/ visualization tools, and more. 

The ‘Best Overall Community Hack’ prize was won by the “You Aut To Join Us - Autism Cares Team” made up of Abhishree Verma (India), Aarna Patel (Newburgh School), Sameer Acharya (Virginia), and Adriana Frias (Suny Orange)! They created a functioning website to help autistic people and their supporters find resources. It features educational games in a visual format tailored to autistic people that help them learn life skills, a geolocation map that finds resources and institutions for autistic people in any area, links to blogs of those living with autism, information on the condition, and a place for people to come together in a supportive and inclusive environment. Their use of available resources and Open Data was remarkable and they took the ‘Open Data For Social Good’ theme of the Hackathon to heart when forming their project.

 

 

The ‘Workforce Development’ prize, sponsored by the Workforce Development Institute, was won by the “Anonymous Hiring Hack” team made up of Mark Venuto (Poughkeepsie), Ahamed Arafaath Ali (NJIT), Matthew Pisano (Suny New Paltz), Benjamin Saks (Suny New Paltz), and Dominick Piaquadio (Beacon)! They created an innovative new plan and website to eliminate bias in hiring. We love their use of data sets and the creation of efficient algorithms! Their website is designed to show employers only the skills of the person they are potentially hiring, and not their name, race, gender, etc. Employers can select which skills they would like for a listing and future employees would see listings that match their skill set. This is a great project that really streamlines and equalizes the hiring process and makes good use of many tools! 

 

 

The ‘Best GIS Hack’ prize was won by the “Transportation Data Project” team made up of Dev Shah, Alexander Lizzo (Marist college), Connor McCormack (Poughkeepsie), Eric Zheng, and Kyle Gilbert (Syracuse)! They created a tool that would help local municipalities to assist, and small business owners choose the best location for their business to succeed. Using Open Data, R-Code, and Python they interpreted traffic data into a useful and accessible form that people could use to see the amounts, and types, of traffic in any specific area. Business owners could use this to determine if a location is right for them and if they would get enough clientele there and make informed decisions. This is an impressive project that utilized different perspectives to view data and is very proficient in coding and transforming that data into a usable format! 

 

 

We are so proud of everyone who participated in the Hackathon and those who helped organize it. You are all a big part of our fight to bridge the digital divide and bring access to resources, a supportive community, and education to everyone!

Our main goal is always to get people involved in technology no matter who they are or where they come from, and to bring them together in an engaging and supportive environment. We want to create leaders, game changers, problem solvers, innovators, and creators using the best tech industry practices & know-how through an engaging and empowering hands-on learning experience, in a collaborative learning community that thinks differently when it comes to solving problems. 

The way we see it, Hackathons are the best way to do this and elevate people by elevating their skills and providing them with the resources and connections to learn and grow. Hear from some of our participants this year on their experience at HVTechFest’21’s Hackathon and what it means to them!

From Abhishree Verma, who strives to create life-changing solutions to real-world problems and change how women in STEM are perceived: 

“Attending the hackathon for the second time felt like coming back home considering I had started my hackathon journey with HVTech fest exactly a year ago and it has indeed been a motivation, pushing me forward to take part in more and more hackathons. One of my favorite things has been the personalized team building and ideation that always takes place before the beginning of hackathon which is rare to see in other hackathons and I am incredibly grateful for it because it provides an opportunity to network and the sessions by incredible people are filled with so much of valuable knowledge that I plan on carrying with me throughout my life.”

Aarna Patel, a 12-year-old ‘Newburgh Girls Who Code’ alumni, and web designer says:

 “My experience in the Hackathon was great. I got to learn new things and meet new people. As well as to help the community.”

Alex Lizzo, who is trying to learn new coding languages and improve his coding skills, says: 

“My experience was fun and collaborative. It started by loading real graphical coordinates datasets into R, and towards the end, I was trying to parse geographic coordinates from the datasets”.  

From Ahamed Arafaath Ali, who is a Data Scientist:

 “The hackathon was really interesting and I got to learn cool concepts. Over the span of less than 24h, I gained knowledge of the recommender system. Since our goal was to recommend job postings based on the potential employee’s skill set, we had to load two different data sets, merge them, utilize them and build an algorithm to recommend job postings based on the skills.” 

From Eric Zheng, who is a designer and researcher: “My experience during the Hackathon was overall quite good, and I ended up learning a lot about working as a team to create a project and learning a lot about what GIS can do. The Hackathon was a great learning experience for me and a good introduction to these types of events and what working together with others on a project such as this one is like. Thank you!”

Dominick Piaquadio, a Code Ronin wanting to help others by solving problems with technology says: “The one thing I love about the Hackathons that came to be is how it enables one to test out ideas. Without the Hackathon, I would've never been able to test and share my Vision with others. This is why I feel that having these Hackathons and Tech Festivals is important for the community and for the integration of tech work in the Hudson Valley. I can't wait to be a part of future events!” 

Our Hackers really felt that the Hackathon was a useful, engaging, and informative experience for them. We are so glad that they enjoyed it and we hope to work with everyone who participated again soon!

We’d like to emphasize how much good Hackathons can bring to the community, the people, and, well, the world! There is so much power in bringing people together and giving them the resources and space to use technology for problem-solving, collaborate productively, share ideas and knowledge, and build a network that will last for life! 

If you’ve ever wondered whether the Hackathon could be right for you, it is! No matter your age, background, experience, or confidence. As long as you have the desire to learn, grow and take a chance, we will be here to provide a community that will accept you and lift you up to take the first step into your very bright future!

Once again, a huge thank you to everyone who participated in the Hackathon this year, to the mentors, speakers, and judges who helped make it happen, and to our amazing sponsors who supported us in actualizing this event! We hope to see you all again next time and if you didn’t make it this year, don’t worry, there are still plenty of ways to get involved in a course, workshop, activity, etc like this! 

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