Prototyping Teams win $11,500 in Prizes at NBCUniversal Social Hack Organized by NYC Media Lab

Teams worked to prototype solutions for two nonprofit partners using data science, data visualization, and UI/UX design

In a recent hackathon organized by NBCUniversal and NYC Media Lab, over two dozen teams worked across two prototyping tracks to help design technology solutions for real-world problems. NBCUniversal believes innovation is good for communities. By supporting nonprofits, social entrepreneurs, and community organizations, NBCUniversal can use the power of media and technology to help solve important social issues in communities of need.

Called the NBCUniversal Social Hack, the hackathon took place Friday and Saturday June 23rd-24th, and was hosted by Civic Hall, a New York City-based innovation center for civic tech. Participants chose between two program tracks, each led by a nonprofit partner: Per Scholas and Move For Hunger.

Following an intensive application process, the selected team members — including NYC university faculty and students, young professionals and emerging entrepreneurs — worked together to consider technical solutions and vie for cash prizes. 22+ teams for each nonprofit track produced prototypes across a range of technologies, including mobile applications, browser extensions, data-driven websites, conversational interfaces, and social media platforms.

Per Scholas provides tuition-free technology training and professional development, helping unemployed and underemployed adults find successful careers as IT professionals. Per Scholas operates six cities across the country, and to date, has trained 6,000 individuals, helping them build lasting, life changing skills and careers in technology. Teams in the Per Scholas track focused on prototyping with data science and data visualization, specifically around keeping the organization’s vast network of alumni engaged with their community.

Move for Hunger works with relocation companies to collect non-perishable food items, and deliver it to food banks all across North America. Many people throw out a good deal of “stuff” when they move. Unfortunately, a lot of this “stuff” is food that could be delivered to a family in need rather than discarded. By teaming up with relocation companies across the country, Move For Hunger is creating one of the nation’s largest year-round service programs. Teams in the Move for Hunger Track worked with UI/UX design to bring awareness to the organizations booking resources.

Throughout the hackathon, the nonprofits provided subject-matter mentorship and firsthand experiences in addressing community challenges. In addition to oversight from the nonprofits, NBCUniversal provided intensive workshops and webinars from leaders at Amazon and Salesforce, which helped participants further develop their technical knowledge of available tools.

Industry mentors from NBCUniversal also met with each team, applying their expertise in data science, data visualization, user experience, and interaction design to assist the teams with concept development. Mentors from NBCUniversal included: Michael Ibrahim, Director Innovation Products, Media Labs; Sam Harrell, Research Director & Lead Developer, Media Labs; Doga Kerestecioglu, Senior Manager, Management Sciences; Zeidee Pineda, Manager, Management Science & Integration; and Todd Rimes, Sr. Product Manager, DPIM, TVE Services.

In a rapid pitch session on June 24th, each team presented working prototypes and live demonstrations to a panel of judges, including: Sowmya Gottipati, VP, Media Labs, NBCUniversal; Jessica Clancy, VP, Corporate Social Responsibility, NBCUniversal; and Andrew Pinzler, Head of Innovation Labs, TODAY Digital, NBCUniversal. Representatives from Per Scholas and Move for Hunger also served as judges. Prototypes were assessed based on their demonstrated uses of technology, their levels of originality and innovation, and on the teams’ capacities to articulate their visions as it related to the competition’s goals.

Read on to learn about the top winning teams and their prototypes…


Move for Hunger: UI/UX Track

Grand Prize ($3,000): Team Adhikya

Devina Jesrani, Sumit Paul

A web and mobile app that addresses Move For Hunger’s current challenges of mission awareness and food drive organization. The app generates beautiful marketing collateral and shares the collateral on social media channels. The app also involves search/discovery partnerships with movers and packaged food companies, creating awareness of the program.

Grand Prize winners Team Adhikya

First Prize ($1,500): Parsons MFADT

Shenxun Wang, Ziqiang He, Liang Shi

A online community, featuring an AI chatbot, for everyone to host a successful food drive event.

Second Prize ($1,000): For A Purpose

Joseph Huaynate, Hui Lin, Syed Chowdhury, Ayo Johnson

A simplified user experience for moving companies and food drive organizers.

Third Prize ($250): DSI SVA

Sandy Guberti-Ng, Hrudaya Veena Yanamandala, Yuka Fukuoka

A redesign of the Move For Hunger website to make it more user-friendly for planning moves and donating food.


Per Scholas: Data Science and Data Visualization Track

Grand Prize ($3,000): Above Average Joes

Yunbin Zhang, Pat Sukhum

A mobile social app for Per Scholas to increase engagement through job listings, profile system, and chat systems. The app also includes a point system to incentivize alumni to be active. Provide data visualizations for coaches as well as alumni.

Grand Prize winners Above Average Joes

First Prize ($1,500): The Kernel Trickers

Gary Sztajnman, Amir Imani

A Facebook Messenger chatbot for Per Scholas alumni to connect with Per Scholas.

Second Prize ($1,000): PERsevere

Dana Mercury, Tanya Elshahawi, George Lu, Mengge Wang

Gamifying alumni engagement to extract actionable insights for Per Scholas staff.

Third Prize ($250): ITP

Patrick Presto, Scott Reitherman, Cristobal Valenzuela, Alejandro Matamala

A toolkit (chatbot, browser extensions, dashboard) for alumni and Per Scholas to keep in touch after graduation


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