While most hackathons focus on the code being created, emotion took center stage in this one.
More than 200 software developers gathered at the Engine-4 incubator space in Bayamón, Puerto Rico in August to create solutions that addressed natural disasters. For two days, local NGOs, representatives from relief organizations and developers from the local startup and developer communities gathered to collaborate and build solutions that could help populations prepare and protect their communities for the future.
After two major hurricanes (Maria and Irma) hit the island directly in 2017, developers were eager to use their personal experiences to inspire their work.
The winning solution from the hackathon, DroneAid, uses visual recognition technology to decipher symbols on physical mats that can be placed on rooftops to determine whether the people inside need food, water or medical assistance.
“Right after the hurricane,” says DroneAid creator Pedro Cruz, “I was worried for my parents, my family and my grandma. We had no communications whatsoever. I saw all the destruction and I got worried. Thankfully, I had my drone.”
Cruz used his drone to check on family members, and the experience sparked the idea to create his Call for Code solution.
Angel Diaz, IBM vice president of developer technology and advocacy, also had an emotional connection to this hackathon. As a native Puerto Rican, Diaz was inspired by the outpouring of creativity and inventiveness from the developers who participated.
“Software made a difference,” Diaz said, referring to the aftermath of last year’s hurricanes, “Software could make even more of a difference. Call for Code is all about inspiring software developers to use their powers for good—and in this case, it’s to address natural disasters.”
Diaz had a chance to speak about the hackathon and his personal ties to the island with Headline News:
Disaster relief experts were also on hand to answer questions and provide context for the software developers around the types of applications that could really make a difference on the ground. One of those experts, D.A. Kouns, from the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center, sat down with IBM software engineer Daniel Krook for an in-depth discussion around the IT challenges faced in the aftermath of last year’s hurricanes.