I generally like to keep this blog primarily travel focused, but I wanted to make an exception and share an initiative that I’ve been working on outside of my day job.
Every year, my employer hosts technology based hackathons as part of their effort to foster curiosity and innovation. Each year a different technology or theme is picked and teams set about coming up with a problem statement and tech-driven solution before pitching their ideas – dragon’s den style – to a panels of judges.
This year, the theme was “Social Good” – defined as an act or acts that create benefits for the largest number of people in the largest possible way, for example providing clean water, healthcare of improving literacy.
Over the course of three months, (nearly 300 employees) split into thirty six teams, partnered with not-for-profit organizations to help further their missions, with the goal of doing good for others (in their own time).
- Helping people rise out of poverty
- Improving communication during emergencies like school shootings
- Improving literacy in Uganda
- Providing resources for those contemplating suicide
- Building better jobs and better futures
My team a.k.a The Suicide Prevention Squad decided to look at leveraging a Google Analytics and Adwords based platform to find those contemplating suicide and serve us tools and resources to support them.
We were one of sixteen teams selected to travel to Denver, Colorado to take part in the finals where we would submit a video outlining our problem statement, proposed solution and results to date as well as participating in a trade-show style expo.
I would have hated to be part of the judging panel – every team brought their A* game, and every pitch was full of heart, inspiration and a common desire to make the world a better place – it must have been a really difficult decision.
We had a lot of fun and learned a lot in the process – it was definitely worth the trip – which for me included about 21 hours of flying due to delays.
At least, while I was in town, I had the chance to do some exploring and catch up with friends.
The winning team was based in Denver and created an instant, confidential two-way communication app using AWS cloud infrastructure that can be used during urgent situations like school lockdowns or lockouts, medical emergencies, or threats of violence in the workplace or at home. The app provides users’ geo-locations to ensure they get the help they need, and uses WiFi systems if cell services go down. The team hopes that it will eventually be used to help predict (and therefore prevent) these types of incidents before they occur.
Finally, here’s a recap of the event: