Monday, April 15, 2013

Improving Hillsborough County with a Hack-a-thon

Commuter coders gathered to create new applications based on the county’s data.

Posted By on Mon, Apr 15, 2013 at 11:43 PM

Commissioner Sharpe with Hack-A-Thon winners
  • Commissioner Sharpe with Hack-A-Thon winners

“The technological industry is booming and the government needs it," says Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, labeled the “Champion” of the first Hillsborough County Hack-a-thon.

His goal for last weekend's event was to bring the techies out and to inspire the youth in coding.

Nine tech and business savvy teams were challenged to design, program, and pitch their new applications to a panel of seven judges in 48 hours.

Teams were judged on several areas including the programs feasibility, potential development, novelty and impact. The first place winners were awarded $250 for each member along with other bonus items.

Team PyBulls won first place with their idea for improving community watch organizations. The team emphasized community safety and their desire to protect resident’s personal information. They saw the problems associated with distributing community information on basic websites or through emails.

Their program planned to consolidate information on a password protected interface that the block captain could access and use as needed for protecting the neighborhood. In addition, residence could use a similar interface to log into the program and personally add their contact information and in the event of an emergency could be notified.

PyBulls planned for additional options to track and identify dangerous dogs and other potential safety risks.

Team Baddog planned to set up a tracking system to identify dangerous dogs. Their application allowed users to track dogs with a history of violence. Users could access a list of owners, breeds, addresses, victims, and other categories.

They would also be able to report dangerous animals either by picture or by location. This would allow for safer and well informed communities and it could speed up rescue and even lost pet recovery.

Another group designed an interactive website and application to bring more visitors to local parks. Team Parks are Cool believed that inspiring people to go to local parks was as simple as creating a program to allow visitors to plan their trips based on several different options including trails, soil samples, and lakes. User would be able to plan personal nature adventures or classroom oriented field trips.

The program would also feature a mobile option to allow users to interact with each other through social media and to communicate with appropriate authorities when they come across fallen trees or other hazards.

The majority of the teams came up with innovative ideas for improving Hillsborough County, but some groups had trouble getting their ideas off the ground.

With program proposals ranging from home search help to identifying the bad dogs, these groups worked tirelessly throughout the weekend to create demos and even fully functioning applications and websites.

Commissioner Sharpe has plans to set up a 24/7 problem solving technology hub. He has been looking into putting this on the third floor of the downtown library. He hopes to merge Tampa’s techie community with Orlando’s to compete with larger tech savvy cities and make the Tampa Bay area associated with those high wage jobs.

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