How do you hack for humanity?
Start by bringing together the lower mainland’s best hackers with amazing charitable and non-profit organizations in need of innovative technology solutions. Add in some tasty locally sourced food, awesome prizes, and enthusiastic sponsors. What you get is a spark of creativity that changes the world.
Vancouver’s first Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK), presented by EMC, which finished on Sunday, December 2nd, was undeniably a resounding success. This two-day hackathon saw about 45 volunteer technologists, web developers, programmers, and graphic designers collaborate to find tech solutions for local and international charities and non-profit organizations. The Vancouver event was just one of over 30 simultaneous events in cities around the world, from Sydney and Bangalore to Cape Town and Berlin.
RHoK (pronounced “rock”) focuses on creating open source technology solutions to real problems for real people. Project partner organizations and stakeholders are on hand throughout the event to guide each hacker team, ensuring that the solution has a high probability of successful implementation. Held twice a year, this was the 6th RHoK hackathon worldwide; however, it was the first time Vancouver participated, thanks to the hosting efforts of PeaceGeeks, a local startup non-profit focused on the promotion of peace through creative technology solutions and partnerships with grassroots organizations worldwide.
RHoK Vancouver kicked off on Friday, November 30th at HiVE Vancouver with presentations from eight organizations looking for tech assistance: Transformation Projects, HiVE Vancouver, HarassMap, Canada Without Poverty, Isis International, Five Hole for Food, and the Wilderness Committee. To see a full description of the projects, visit http://peacegeeks.org/rhok#projects.
Participants listened to each organization while enjoying a donated ale from Granville Island Brewery. Each presenter had a 3-minute pitch and 2 minutes for Q&A with the crowd as a whole. Afterward, participants had a chance to chat with each presenter, as well as sponsor representatives from EMC and Informatica.
On Saturday morning, participants arriving at GrowLab were greeted with fresh Ethical Bean coffee and a continental breakfast. Teams self-organized based on which problems had the most interest. Participants then took to their chosen projects with vigor and enthusiasm that lasted through to 11:30pm! Lunch, dinner and other refreshments were provided throughout the day thanks to our sponsors. To keep the energy levels high, a live DJ provided tunes and sponsored prizes were randomly drawn.
The hackers made a final push of coding and documenting on Sunday, with presentations starting promptly at the 4pm deadline. A guest panel of judges, including one of RHoK’s original founders Todd Khozein of Second Muse and EMC sponsor representative Gerry D’Costa, reviewed the solutions from the five project teams with working prototypes. Everyone was thrilled with the high level of quality and creativity across the board, and the judges had their work cut out in selecting a single winner for top prize.
The judges awarded first place to the team for Transformation Projects’ Open Vancouver initiative. Team members were Naoya Makino, Hicham Rafi, Graham Douglas, Murad Habibi, Yaniv Talmor, and project lead Adrian Sinclair. Second place was awarded to the HiVE Vancouver team; third place to the HarassMap team.
Just because the event ended, however, does not mean that the work is over. All prototype solutions presented on Friday show a clear path forward to implementation, and many of the volunteers are eager to refine and launch version 1.0 of their work. All teams submitted their code and written project descriptions to the RHoK database. Moreover, a team of videographers was on hand Sunday afternoon to interview participants while the work was still fresh in their minds. Stay tuned to our website (http://peacegeeks.org) and the RHoK global site (http://rhok.org) for more updates on the solutions in action.
All in all, it was an amazing weekend. Thanks to all the participants, the RHoK global team, the local organizing committee, and day volunteers for making this event such a success. Of course, none of it would have been possible without our sponsors: EMC, Informatica, GrowLab, Ethical Bean, andGranville Island Brewery -- thank you for your tremendous support!