By Stephanie Guyotte
Students from UMass Lowell, Boston College and Haverhill High School were among the top winners at the first ever Hack Haverhill, a civic technology hackathon hosted at the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub Haverhill.
The 24-hour hackathon event, held Nov. 16-17, featured 15 teams made up of high school students, college students and professionals who were challenged to use technology to create a digital ecosystem to support students and family success in Haverhill.
Hack Haverhill was led by a volunteer committee headed by State Rep. Andy Vargas and City Council President John Michitson as well as staff from the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub, Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce and the City of Haverhill.
“This was an outstanding first Hackathon in Haverhill that wouldn’t have been possible without our team effort and partnerships across multiple sectors,” said State Rep. Andy Vargas. “Hackathons serve two purposes — sparking innovation with a cool event and helping to solve real problems. I’m proud that our steering committee and the hackathon participants accomplished that.”
“It was an exciting night having the hackers take over the iHub,” said Stephanie Guyotte,associate director of the Innovation Hub. “This was a great opportunity for UMass Lowell to partner with leading community organizations in support of an event that was innovative, inclusive, and engaging while also leading to new ideas and initiatives to boost success for families in Haverhill. We look forward to hosting more of these events here at the iHub.”
The goal of Hack Haverhill was for hackers to develop a solution that improves the way schools, nonprofits and other agencies communicate, collaborate and share information in a way that is effective, timely and relevant to student and family needs. Hackers participating in Hack Haverhill heard an overview of the challenge and had the opportunity to speak with representatives from Haverhill Public Schools, Haverhill YMCA, Haverhill Boys and Girls Club, and Community Action about data, demographics, communication barriers and ways in which the agencies could benefit from the hackers’ technological solution.
Teams then spread out across the iHub and worked through the night to create their projects. Meals and snacks were provided throughout the event. Technology experts and computer science professionals were also on hand to serve as mentors and advisors to teams.
The first place team, named RAMS, which included Simon Wang, PJ Blanchard, Edwin Meriaux – all UMass Lowell students – and David Shen of Boston College stood out to the judges because the team managed to use the data to build a multipoint risk score that would alert parents, teachers, non-profits, and eventually appropriate authorities based on student actions and parent engagement. For their work, the team received the $5,000 first prize.
The winning team have follow up discussions with city and school officials about opportunities to further develop their idea. In addition, the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub will provide use of its facility for the winning team to work on their project for the next three months.
Second prize of $3,000 went to HiveLabs for their functional centralized platform that provided teachers a way to monitor student progress, parents a way to be aware of information and policies, and NGOs a way to engage with at risk students. The $1,000 third prize was awarded to a Haverhill High School student team for their app, Parent Portal App (P2).
The judge’s choice award (also a $1,000 prize) was given to team Bullfrogs, a team that formed at the event and even after suffering the loss of a team member managed to deliver a functioning SMS platform that provides the schools and area organizations the ability to text updates to parents without the need to exchange numbers.
Hack Haverhill 2018 was presented by leading sponsors Team Haverhill and MITRE Corp. Additional sponsors were the American Digital Diversity Initiative, Cambridge Innovation Center, Microsoft, and RMON Networks. Haverhill-based CEO Beverages donated energy drinks to keep the participants going through the 24-hour event.
Event judges were: Rich Breault, President, Lightspeed Manufacturing; Max Clermont, Co-Founder, Data for Black Lives; Diana DiZoglio, State Senator-Elect; Kat Everett, Co-Founder POSE Inc (POwer of Self Education); Denise Howard, Vice President, RMON Networks; Marcia Lazo, AI Engineer, MITRE Corp; and Christian Ponce, Director of Applied Innovation, LogMeIn.