With help from buckets of Red Bull, trays of sandwiches and some last-minute cake, nearly 50 software developers stayed up for the better part of 24 hours last weekend in Santa Monica to build apps for nonprofit organizations.
The technology industry hasn't enjoyed the rosiest of relationships with their communities (see: the Google bus protests). But there's hope that future flare-ups could be staved off in part by a growing number of hack-a-thons across the country that are oriented toward a cause.
"We thought this was a great opportunity to create an ecosystem of goodwill," said Zach Suchin, chief executive of product development company Brand Knew, which organized the Causathon at the General Assembly school in Santa Monica.
The event attracted coders including those still in college and the winning squad, a group of friends from an El Segundo digital agency. Emerging from the chaos of charging cords, Red Bull cans and even a toothbrush were 11 projects. Eight judges, including Los Angeles investors and talent agency executives, graded them.
The winning team, with friends from the firm Rapp, built a rideshare tracking app. The wellness fund relies on a pen-and-paper system to see whether its network of drivers is getting Parkinson's patients to doctors' visits on time. Using the app, the patient enters a PIN on the driver's phone at the beginning of the journey and again at the end of the trip. It's a more surefire way to know that trips are going safely because organizers can track drivers in real time.
The second-place team created a survey app that 100K Homes volunteers can use when interviewing homeless people. The interviews are part of the scanning process to see whether they can be moved into a home. Volunteers do surveys by pen and paper right now, creating a six-week delay on tabulating the data, the developers said.
To get more young adults to register to vote, a team of developers built a dating app that mirrors the look of existing data app Tinder. Users swipe to approve or reject political candidates running for Congress. But the twist in the third-place app is that the swipe data is then used to match two real users who might actually want to date. To see the match, the users must register to vote.
A pair of interns from Boeing Corp. built a text-messaging tool for the genocide-fighting organization that enables it to send blog post links to list subscribers.
The group that serves youths in the Middle East received an anonymous chat and message board tool.
An app enables pen pals to share photos with each other, and the photos can be made into a digital postcard sent via email or a printed postcard ordered online.
The organization focused on spurring good deeds received a mockup of a tidier website for mobile devices. The design would encourage people to help out with good deeds that others are seeking help to perform.
Coders built a quiz app called "Are you a sexpert?" that tries to get schools and communities competing for the badge of top-notch "sexpertise."
Got Your 6, which aims to connect the entertainment industry with veterans' organizations, saw an improvement in its content management system that makes it easier for organizers to post links to articles about veterans' issues.
Developers created a map-based search widget to help patients with sarcomas find the nearest healthcare provider that specializes in the cancer.
Developers improved a website that lists people and groups trying to improve the status of women in entertainment.