Hack N Akron 2.0: A Continued Story of Community Involvement

On Saturday, April 22nd 2017, the second iteration of a hackathon series called “Hack N Akron” took place at White Space Creative. The goal of the event was to use community volunteer time to build creative solutions for civic problems that the organizing team, myself included, discussed with the city prior to the event.

This is a 12 hour event that starts at 7:30am with a public opening ceremony at 8:30am that included speeches from:

Hack N
Group photo of the Hack N Akron opening ceremony. Photo Credit: Meghan Goetz

After the opening ceremony, volunteers quickly disperse to meet up with their project managers so they can be briefed on their project background, figure out what their deliverables look like, and start working on tasks.

Teams working during the hackathon
Focusing on skills-based volunteering, your role will match what you’re best at. Above we have Mori and Roger working on long term strategy while the rest of the team builds today’s application in tandem.

I’ve had a number of meetings directly with the mayor and his staff to figure out what sustainability looks like for these projects. The city of Akron has been incredibly open and willing to set aside some of their budget and effort to actually begin using a lot of the solutions that are being created from scratch at our hackathons, and even donated their time and infrastructure to host and maintain the more technical solutions. More was done during the hackathon, but the technical solutions that we were involved in include:

  • An Open Data API that allows software developers to gain access to city economic development data. This allows them to search and parse data as they see fit, coming up with trends, patterns, and correlations the city may not have thought of previously.
  • A “City Health” dashboard that gives non-technical users a visual look into charts and graphs that show the economic development data we were able to put into our API.
  • An application that allows a user to search for land based on its current use.

We’re always excited to be a part of events like this. In fact, we had all three of us involved in one way or another:

  • Jon Knapp: Team leader and participant of the Open Data API team.
    Open Data API Team
  • Eric Browning: Team leader and participant of the Open Data Dashboard team.
    Open Data Dashboard Team
  • Byron Delpinal: Co-organizer of Hack N Akron and project manager for the Open Data Innovation team. (Not pictured because someone had to take the photo!)
    Open Data Innovation Team

At the end of the day, participants have the ability to get about 10 hours of work in. With a volunteer attendance of around 50, this is approximately 500 service-hours of time. This equates to $11,495* of value in one day that is donated by local professionals to help better our city in one way or another, and does not take into account the countless planning meetings, sponsorship dollars, and space donations given for the event.

In short, we were happy to be a part of such a great event!

*Volunteer value calculated using the Independent Sector Volunteer Time Value.

2016 Cleveland GiveCamp Recap

Waking up the Monday after GiveCamp is always the most relaxing morning of the year. It’s juxtaposed with the two preceding days where sleep is hard to come by and each morning you are reminded of all of the work that needs to get done that day.

What is GiveCamp?

Cleveland GiveCamp is an incredibly well-organized event that takes place in Cleveland, OH every year that benefits non-profit organizations in the area. The basic flow of events is this:

  1. A local non-profit needs a problem solved through technology but does not have the personal or financial means to solve it themselves.
  2. They apply to GiveCamp to have volunteers solve said problem for them.
  3. After a very long weekend, they leave GiveCamp with a (hopefully) working and maintainable solution to their problem.

Every year the event has ~200 volunteers who handle everything from design, development, implementation, and copy writing, to food, setup, and cleanup.

The event is a time where you can meet like-minded people, make meaningful connections with others, and do some good in the world.

What did Coffee and Code do?

We proudly play many roles in helping GiveCamp become the successful event that it is today. Did I mention that it’s the nations largest and most well-sponsored GiveCamp event?

1. Sponsor

GiveCamp Water Bottles

Photo by Stuart O. Smith, Jr. @sos_jr

We were more than happy to become one of the many sponsors of this event, helping to ensure that it had the funds it needed to make sure every team had the supplies they need to succeed.

2. Organizer & Fire Extinguisher

GiveCamp Team Y Group Photo

Photo by GiveCamp photographers

Jon Knapp, founder of Coffee and Code, is a recurring organizer for GiveCamp as well as a member of Team Y. Call them all-stars, fire extinguishers, or red-shirts, Team Y was the group that you called when something went wrong. They are seasoned members of the community that are veterans in flipping a train wreck into a smooth delivery.

3. Volunteer

GiveCamp Team M Group Photo

Photo by GiveCamp photographers

Byron Delpinal, developer at Coffee and Code, is a second-year volunteer and member of Team M. His team helped the Northeast Ohio Voters Advocates better show their goals to a wider audience through a newly branded and designed website. This allows them to showcase who they are to a wider group of people. They now have a mobile-friendly site and can even take donations online!

What’s the weekend like?

A weekend at GiveCamp takes roughly 400 hours to complete in the minds of those that attend. In reality, it’s a 72-hour weekend.

Day One: Plan and Begin

Site Map and Priority List
Volunteers arrive and check-in Friday around 5PM where they are assigned a team. Each team is a single letter. At this point, the volunteer doesn’t know which non-profit they’re working with, or who their other team members are. There is a 30min opening ceremony , and then its off to dinner. Oh my gosh, dinner. The food at GiveCamp is so top-notch, seriously. I can’t say enough about it. At dinner, you are assigned an eating / working area where you finally meet your team and non-profit all at once. This is a meet and greet where you get to find out what work you’ll be completing and who you’ll be completing it with.

After dinner, the project manager starts assigning tasks and it’s off to the races! Teams work hard to start gathering the resources they need and syncing up development environments. Day one usually starts winding down after the last stand-up at 11PM, but teams can be seen working on the boat until very early in the morning. At the end of this day, you should have mapped out what this project looks like and how you’re planning to tackle this.

Day Two: Collaborate and Work

Task List on Post It Notes

Photo by Anna Kiss Mauser-Martinez

On Saturday, breakfast is served at 7:30AM. Teams eat and begin working around 8. At this point, the team usually has a fairly good understanding of the direction of the project as well as what each members role in that will look like. Task lists are created and teams go to work on their collaborative solution.

Depending on how large your project is, Saturday can become anywhere from a 12 to a 20 hour work day. This is where the real magic of GiveCamp happens, and most of the work is done. The organizers of this event do an amazing job of making sure that whatever it is that keeps you going is there to support you. Whether you work best on low-carb energy bars, fruit, coffee, donuts, cupcakes, or chips, there are snacks and drinks available 24/7. The planned meals, again, are on a league of their own.

Day Three: Finish up and Present

Waking up Sunday is a very different experience for everyone. Some projects have been finished and are writing documentation for their non-profits while others have three members from Team Y in their work space. No matter where you are on that spectrum, don’t panic. Sometimes things happen that aren’t ideal and that’s ok, remember that everyone is there to help. This year there was a 100% project success rate, which only happens when you truly have a community that is focused on helping others. Egos are put aside, frustrations are calmed, and everyone does whatever is necessary to get the projects completed.

Closing ceremonies are at 4PM where each project is presented to the group. This is when you can finally relax your mind and enjoy the fact that no matter which project you were on, you helped someone that needed it. Regardless of your stress level throughout the weekend, you leave with a big smile and a feeling of satisfaction.