Hack for Homelessness
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Bloomin’ Brands, Accusoft teams take top prizes at Tampa Innovation Alliance Hackathon for Homelessness
Six teams research data and build apps that support homeless initiatives in only 72 hours
Teams from Tampa-based Bloomin’ Brands and Accusoft won the top two prizes at the Tampa Innovation Alliance’s ‘Gimme Shelter’ Hackathon for Homelessness last weekend. The event brought coders from across Hillsborough County together to work on digital solutions to the region’s homeless.
The team sponsored by Bloomin’ Brands won the grand prize for a mobile device application that makes resources like shelters and soup kitchens easier to find for Hillsborough County’s homeless population. The application was in response to a dire need in the homeless community where as many as 85 percent of those without a permanent place to live use smartphones.
Second prize went to the team sponsored by Accusoft. That team developed a web-based survey to replace paper surveys used by agencies tasked with counting and understanding Tampa’s homeless population. The new site will help save time and create a much more efficient process for relief agencies.
“We have made magnificent progress with the work that the volunteer coders did at this year’s hackathon,” said Tampa Innovation Alliance Executive Director Mark Sharpe. “This new tech is going to make it easier for Tampa’s homeless to access resources and streamline the work done by agencies trying to help.”
Another standout team was formed through a collaboration between the USF School of Engineering and the School of Social Work. That group’s Android application to locate homeless shelters also launches the university’s first-ever Social Technology Initiative.
This year’s hackathon, coordinated as part of the National Civic Day of Hacking, was organized differently than in years past. The Innovation Alliance hosted the event instead of Hillsborough County, which had hosted previous hackathons. This year, specific projects were outlined for the teams to approach, which Sharpe said led to targeted outcomes.
“The planning that went into the modules we offered the coding teams paid off when the projects came back,” Sharpe said. “The agencies that work with the homeless population were the key to making sure we had useful projects to tackle.”
Six teams and about 40 coders spent at least 18 hours each from Friday night until Sunday afternoon tackling one of Hillsborough County’s most significant social challenges. Another 20 volunteer support staff stayed the weekend at Tampa’s Crossover Church on Fowler Avenue to help the event run smoothly and Tampa’s Food Truck Rally helped keep everyone fed with food trucks on site several times a day with complimentary meals.
Other sponsors included SunTrust Banks, Redhat, NetSVS, Code for Tampa Bay and the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative.
About Tampa Innovation Alliance
The Tampa Innovation Alliance is a multi-jurisdictional district anchored by globally-recognized institutions such as USF, Busch Gardens, Moffitt Cancer Center, Florida Hospital, and RD Management. These institutions drive economic activity, engaging tens of thousands of students, educators, health care workers, patients, and four million tourists annually. The Alliance is set to build an engaged community recognized as an innovation destination.