On the sunny Saturday morning of December 1st, 2018 over 40 of the brightest and most creative minds in San Diego came together for Girls in Tech San Diego’s second annual Hacking for Humanity hackathon for social good. The focus this year was the issue of homelessness in San Diego. Amazon and Nutanix generously sponsored the event.

The hackathon officially began with opening remarks and guidance from Girls in Tech San Diego’s Managing Director Lisa Rosenfeldt, followed by presentations from Pedro De Leon Jr. of TenHut, Walter Philips of San Diego Youth Services, and Dennis Stein and Tony of The Tony Movie describing the challenges they face as they work each day to improve the lives of homeless citizens of San Diego. Participants were then divided into seven teams based on their complementary skills and strengths to begin brainstorming, planning, and coding. Mentors kindly volunteered their time and expertise, supporting and guiding teams as they worked tirelessly toward innovative technological solutions.

Amazon’s office proved to be the perfect headquarters for the hackathon. In addition to the exciting ambiance of a cutting-edge tech company, the space featured large areas for gathering as a group and smaller, more intimate workspaces for teams to sequester themselves and work distraction-free. Catered meals fueled participants and mentors alike, and optional breakout sessions like yoga allowed participants to pause, clear their minds, and return to their projects feeling refreshed.

If you’ve never attended Hacking for Humanity – or any hackathon, for that matter – the idea of spending a weekend collaborating with people you’ve never met in an effort to complete a whole project to then be judged on your work may sound a bit intimidating, especially if you’re new to design or development. Hacking for Humanity is unique among hackathons in that addressing the issue at hand and contributing to the improvement of the community is paramount, even more than producing a polished finished product. No matter your level of skill and experience from a technical standpoint, if you feel passionately about contributing to the greater good, you’ll fit right in. At this year’s event, bonds were forged among teammates as they struggled and triumphed together, and everyone left having learned and accomplished something important. The weekend may be over, but the projects are not. Girls in Tech San Diego educated hackathon participants on strategies for taking their projects to the next level through testing, acquiring funding, and marketing.

Speaking of accomplishments, this year’s Hacking for Humanity saw the birth of some truly beautiful new technology. The winning team, hüm, created a communication platform where users have the ability to make a profile and share a video story about their experiences and the challenges they face. Those who wish to lend a hand can view stories of people in their area and use the chat feature to connect. This can lead to in-person meetings to converse, exchange goods, negotiate employment, and more.

In second place was Connect for Success, which provides a platform for homeless job-seekers, employers that are understanding of the candidates’ situation, and volunteer helpers can come together. Job seekers have the ability to apply for jobs as well as post requests for items and services that would support their quest to employment. Volunteers can browse those requests and fulfill those needs.

The third-place winner was R3: Right Resources Right Now, an app that connects individuals in need of housing, food, and other necessities with those resources in real time 24/7. The app also provides data analytics to nonprofit organizations and government agencies to give them a better understanding of the reach and effectiveness of the resources they provide. Other incredible apps that were developed during Hacking for Humanity focused on digitizing and disseminating information throughout the affected community, supporting homeless youth, and connecting those in need with specific resources – with or without access to personal technology!

To everyone who attended this year’s Hacking for Humanity hackathon for social good as a participant, mentor, or judge, from all of us at Girls in Tech San Diego, thank you for contributing your time, energy, and skills to improving our community. To our wonderful sponsors, Amazon and Nutanix, thank you for supporting us and making this amazing event – and all the good that came out of it – possible. To everyone considering participating and/or volunteering next year, we would love to have you! Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on social media to stay abreast of hackathons and other exciting events.