HEX Hackathon: 32 Hours to Make the World a Better Place
More than 300 programmers from all over the world took part in last month’s HEX Hackathon in Eindhoven (the Netherlands). HEX is coordinated by Major League Hacking (MLH), a student hackathon league. The participants of HEX Hackathon had only 32 hours to come up with the most creative solution in one of its ten tracks. Team Marvin from ITMO University chose the Future Society track and proposed an application that would help charity organisations to recruit volunteers and allow people to find charity work inside their communities. The team was awarded the second place by an expert jury that included experts from the Bloomberg company, the track’s coordinator.
What is HEX Hackathon?
HEX is an international hackathon coordinated by the company Major League Hacking.HEX was created in 2017 by a team of entrepreneurial students from a community called The Blendr. Situated in hi-tech region Brainport Eindhoven, Europe’s optimal breeding place for innovation, it has become the biggest hackathon in the Netherlands.
With a team of up to five people, the participants had 32 hours to come up with a working app in one of the ten tracks, each addressing a challenge. All challenges considered the theme “2050”. The tracks included virtual reality, E-commerce, smart cities, self-driving cars, healthtech, Future Society, etc.
CherryTea: Enabling Local Charities and Volunteers to Find Each Other
It was the Future Society track that ITMO University’s team Marvin chose; the team was made up of Maxim Markelov and Andrei Vinogradov, Master’s students at the Department of Computation Technologies, Yulia Mishina, a Master’s student at the Department of Intelligent Technologies in Humanities, and Kirill Lucenko, a graduate of St. Petersburg Polytechnic University.
The Future Society track was coordinated by the Bloomberg company, who encouraged the participants to come up with a project that would be used to help smaller charities be noticed by larger benefactors. Because, as Bloomberg highlights in their Future Society challenge, smaller charities suffer the most from lack of visibility.
“We chose this track because of its social mission. Maxim and I both work in for-profit companies, but we also wanted to contribute to social change”, shared Andrei Vinogradov.
“Bloomberg asked that we create an application that would help smaller charities to get visibility and, at the same time, would be useful for people willing to volunteer for local small-scale charities. So we came up with our app CherryTea”, added Maxim Markelov.
CherryTea is an application that allows non-profit organisations to post calls for various types of volunteer work and helps users quickly find events based on their preferences, interests and location, as well as get personal recommendations.
How It Works
Any non-profit charity organisation can use this application to post information about the upcoming events. All the volunteer work is categorized by type (helping the homeless, working with children, elderly care, animal rescue, etc.) Charity organisations fill in the details about events (description, date, location and the number of volunteers needed). Users, for their part, can choose a category, view the details and sign up for an event.
Users can also get personal recommendations. The recommendation system, created using Microsoft Machine Learning algorithms, allows users to quickly find events based on their preferences, interests and location, making the process even more efficient.
“We often hear about global problems and forget about local issues. So we came up with a method to let people know about local projects”, shared Andrei Vinogradov. “There are many websites on global issues, e.g. the Greenpeace website, but people often miss out on opportunities to volunteer for local small-scale charities”.
The development was carried out by four developers: a mobile development specialist, two backend developers, and a designer.
“Having already participated in hackathons, we knew that we didn’t have enough time to develop something complex, and focused instead on making an application that would really work”, says Maxim.
The team members say that participating in the Hackathon was a great opportunity to meet with the representatives of the world’s biggest corporations, make useful connections, as well as gain some valuable experience and improve their teamwork skills.
The developers plan to continue working on the application in the future. The project is almost finished and now they only need fundingto finalize the app and cover the costs of server upkeep. The team wants their app to remain free for users, so launching a Kickstarter campaign may help to solve the problem.
“We only need to get some money to complete the development and to keep the app running. It’s called crowdsourcing and it is how Wikipedia works”, says Andrei Vinogradov.
Maxim Markelov added that several smaller charity organizations have already expressed interest in the app. But it’s only the beginning.
“Our target audience is very broad, ranging from kindergartens and retirement homes to animal shelters and eco-activist groups. In the Netherlands, we saw ads like “Looking for a person to read fairy tales to children in kindergarten”, or “people to organize a language class for foreigners”, or “volunteers to clean up the garden”. There are many such organisations in Russia, too”, says Maxim, “so we think that our application is exactly what the people need”.