By David Perry
A team of first-year students rooted at UMass Lowell captured top honors and $5,000 in prize money at the first Hack Haverhill 24-hour hackathon competition, topping 14 other teams from colleges, high schools and the professional world.
The UML team, named RAMS (Risk Assessment and Management Systems), emerged winners from about 50 hackers from UMass Amherst, MIT, Boston College and Boston University as well as area high schools and community colleges. The event took place at UML’s iHub in Haverhill’s Harbor Place.
The teams were given a challenge: use technology to connect social agencies, schools and other organizations to better serves Haverhill’s students and their families. Hackers came up with the solutions and organizers supplied food, software and tech support.
“For me, hackathons really push people to think about a problem and use their skills to solve it,” said freshman computer science major Simon Wang who organized the winning team.
Wang was joined by other UML freshmen Paul Joseph Blanchard and Edwin Meriaux – plus freshman David Shen of Boston College. They used data to come up with a risk score to alert parents, teachers and non-profits (and if necessary, the proper authorities) on student actions.
Their app offered access points for parents, school officials and non-profit agencies to report regularly, with only parents having complete access to all the information.
“In middle school and high school,” said computer technology major Meriaux, “I worked at the YMCA as a camp counselor. There were at-risk youth and there was no one doing the work of really connecting everyone together. So this was personal for me, to find a way to make the parents, teachers and everyone connect together to have a 360-degree vision of what the child is doing.”
Stephanie Guyotte, associate director of the Haverhill Innovation Hub, said it was “an exciting night, having the hackers take over the iHub.” The ideas that were developed can boost success for families in Haverhill, she said.
RAMS team members haven’t yet decided how they will use the prize money. The next step for them is a scheduled Jan. 18 meeting with the Hack Haverhill steering committee, which includes State Rep. Andy Vargas, representatives from the city of Haverhill and staff from the UML Innovation Hub.