Baltimore Youth Participate in Inaugural Youth Hackathon at DHF

In February, DHF youth member, Bella, approached our Youth Steering Committee with an idea to have a Youth Hackathon. The hackathon would be organized and hosted by the Youth Steering Committee and open to youth in the Baltimore area ages 12 to 18. The idea of the hackathon would be to create a space for youth the experience the environment of a hackathon alongside their peers.

Over the next seven months, the Youth Steering Committee split into groups to organize the hackathon – Harbor Hacks – a task that involved securing sponsors, creating a budget and ordering prizes, and recruitment of hackers, coaches, and judges.

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Members of the Youth Steering Committee who organized Harbor Hacks

All their planning came together the weekend of August 11th. Forty youth split into ten groups to begin work on a variety of hardware and software projects. We were excited to have a large representation of female participants (46%!!) and youth new to DHF (36%). Aside from their project work throughout the weekend, the youth also participated in soldering workshops with the SparkFun Weevil Eye Kits and programming workshops with Micro:bits, both items that each youth received as part of their swag bags.

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Jonathan shows youth how to use to the Micro:bit

The criteria for judging included difficulty and challenge, communication, functionality, presentation, and innovation in two categories: hardware and software. We had a talented group of judges including Ellie Mitchell (Maryland Out of School Time Network), Marty McGuire (web developer & Baltimore Maker), Jason Hardebeck (The Foundery), and Vakul More (Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Information Technology). Their job was definitely not an easy one!

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Judges checking out Immanuel & Roman’s Battle Bot

All of the projects were great, but ultimately, the judges selected the winners: the winners of the HARDWARE prize were Jean Carlos Zayas and Kaire Williams for their creation of a BB8 robot and the winners of the SOFTWARE prize were Maya Gaylord, Miranda Hull, Carrie Couch, and Liza Molotska for their interactive scratch game, Samventures. The judges expressed being most impressed with the winners’ clear vision and intention to continue the efforts of their teams beyond the hackathon.

The youth in attendance at the hackathon also selected a HACKERS CHOICE winner – Dorian Smith and Ian Smith were selected for their creation of a website through which food suppliers and producers could donate surplus food items to people and organizations in need.

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Although the youth produced creative and innovative projects, many participants surveyed at the end of the hackathon said that their favorite part of the weekend was meeting new people and working together as a team. When asked what youth would tell their peers about Harbor Hacks, one participant said:

“I would tell other youth that if you go [to the hackathon] you will have the best time of your life.”
To see more from the weekend, check out our Harbor Hacks 2017 Album on Flickr.

Thank you, again, to our generous sponsors for Harbor Hacks 2017!

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DHF Youth Organize A Youth Hackathon

We are excited to announce that this year our youth are bringing a hackathon like no other to Digital Harbor Foundation. This hackathon, officially titled Harbor Hacks, is a hackathon organized by youth for youth. For more information and to register visit: http://harborhacks.org

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Harbor Hacks, the Back Story

After participating in several local hackathons, one DHF youth, Bella, noticed that something was missing from these events. Where were all the young makers?

Bella thought that many youth may not be participating in community hackathons because they might not know what to expect at a hackathon. She remembered back to her first hackathon and how her Mom had to keep encouraging her to attend because she was so nervous, she even wanted to back out briefly during the walk to the space. Now, Bella participates in numerous hackathons (and has won a few!) all over Baltimore and came up with an idea to create a hackathon just for youth. This would give young people new to the idea or concept of a hackathon a safe place to experience a hackathon that was designed just for them.

In February, Bella presented her idea for a Youth Hackathon to the Youth Steering Committee at DHF. Our youth split into different committees for the event and went to work planning. Their hard work will be a reality next weekend August 11th – 13th at DHF when the inaugural Harbor Hacks Youth Hackathon takes place.

Register Now for Harbor Hacks 2017
 

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Who Can Participate?

Any youth between the ages of 12 – 18 who like to solve problems, create new inventions, or dream big! Hurry, registration ends August 7th.

We are also looking for a few adult tech coaches to help teams out throughout the weekend, so if you think you might be a good fit, get a coach ticket.

What does it cost?

Registration for students is Pay-What-You-Can and includes a weekend of fun, a t-shirt, meals and snacks all weekend, and some awesome giveaways!

Are there prizes?

Yes! Awesome tech prizes are waiting for the teams or individuals who impress the judges.

Register Now for Harbor Hacks 2017
 

We hope you will be able to join us for a fun weekend!

Baltimore’s First Abilities Hackathon

 

At times, I have found myself taking for granted the simple things in life: being able to walk side by side amongst others, the ability to hold and feel objects, the ability to communicate through speech; not everyone has been granted these abilities, and for some, these abilities have been taken away.

“A child is only as disabled as their environment and the beliefs of the people around them.” – Bala Pillai DPT, PCS

The Abilities Hackathon presented itself as an amazing opportunity for the Baltimore community to closely reflect on the things we take for granted on a daily basis. The event helped unite the community towards helping those with impacted abilities all across Maryland. Teams could participate in any one of the following four tracks:

  • Transportation/Mobility
  • Open Software/Hardware
  • Entertainment/Leisure
  • Wearables

On April 22nd, the Abilities Hackathon brought together over fifty Developers, Makers, and Designers in the quest to find solutions to common problems that those with disabilities face in every day life.

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Over 15 mentors were available on site throughout the weekend in the form of Tech Mentors, as well as Physical and Occupation Therapists to help guide participants in their valiant quest to help their community over the three day event.

At the end of the event, four teams were rewarded greatly for their efforts; thanks to the Mayor’s Office of Information Technology, we were able to present to teams over $9,000 worth of prizes during the weekend.

Here is a recap of what winners in each of the categories designed over the weekend.

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Open Software/Hardware: Tuber
Jake Tunney, Luke Samuels, and Michael Petr found that older adults and people without wifi have limited access to social and health resources. Transportation is also a major factor with accessing these resources. Tuber is an app that allows users to make a phone call to request the highly reliable Uber service for quick, affordable rides.

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What’s next for Tuber?: The creators of Tuber plan on enhancing the quality of voice transcription, and adding confirmation calls to assure users that an Uber is on the way.

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Wearables: eySonos
Max Corbin’s original inspiration for his project came from his aunt with degrading vision. This problem led to a simple question: if we can have cars auto-navigate, why can’t we perform a similar function to help the blind navigate? If we can, is it possible to do it cheaply?

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By combining 3D modeling, circuit building, programming, and getting something working in the short time required, Max Corbin was able to come up with eySonos. eySonos features a scanning array of ultrasound sensors to provide acoustic feedback from what is seen in the environment.

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What’s next for eySonos: 1) Continue to explore options for providing queues to a user. 2) Collect data and see if detection, tracking, and machine learning can be used to classify targets in the environment.

 

Transportation/Mobility: Backpack Access
People in wheelchairs carry lots of gadgets for their everyday needs. They often carry a backpack on the handles of their chair, but struggle to access it. Backpack Access highlights a simple track system with pulleys that allow the user to slide the bag from the back of their chair to the side without needing to reach around. Personal preferences for wheelchair products are highly varied based on ability.

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What’s next for Backpack Access:Developing the extruded rail system with improved pulleys. The creators then plan on making a panier style bag made to work most seamlessly with our system based on the needs of our users in wheelchairs.

 

Leisure/Entertainment: Disaster 512Z
Disaster 512Z (pronounced five twelve z) is a game aimed towards the blind/visually impaired community. With a pair of earbuds and phone in hand, you play as a space officer who has crash landed in the pressure chamber of an abandoned space facility. There is no power, so everything is dark. In fact, you don’t even look at your phone screen throughout the entire game, because there is nothing to see. You hold your phone in your hand and it acts as a device to control the space suit your character is wearing. Instead of walking, the character boosts along (with corresponding sound effects!) when you tilt your phone.

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What’s next for Disaster 512Z: Adding a menu system, most sound effects, more story, and more levels.

 

Overall, the event was a great success. Understandably, it’s quite difficult to brainstorm a project idea that will have lasting effects on an individual’s life, let alone make a fully functioning life-changing prototype in two and a half-days. This is why all eleven teams from the Abilities Hackathon have been invited to continue working on their projects and compete for $6,000 in prizes at the May 25th Showcase. Teams will have had a full month to refine and iterate upon projects presented during the event.

For more information about the Abilities Hackathon Showcase and to get your tickets, visit the Eventbrite page.

Thank you to all that were able to attend the Hackathon on April 22nd; hackers and mentors alike. The event was a great success and we are super excited about the Showcase on May 25th as it begins to come to fruition.

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Also, a big thanks to all of our sponsors who helped support us in our mission to make the world more accessible. You all rock.

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