by Arthy Ferguson, Lars Fjelstad and Will Hough
In 2015, Nike Software Architect Amber Milavec set her sights on empowering women, encouraging diversity and promoting inclusivity in the tech industry. With these ideals in mind, she founded the We Code Hackathon, an annual event in Portland, Oregon that is now a co-production of Beaverton-based Nike and Portland software company, Puppet. We Code is intended for participants of all levels and expertise to grow as engineers and shape the field of technology in Portland. In 2017, We Code added the Non-Profit Challenge, inviting local community organizations to present their challenges in the technology space and asking hackathon participants to brainstorm novel solutions.
Last month, eighteen teams of more than one hundred software engineers and designers came together for the fourth annual We Code Hackathon for Women and Friends. This year, hackers were asked to come up with technical solutions for two local non-profit organizations: Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) and Growing Gardens.
IRCO’s mission is to promote the integration of refugees and immigrants into the community, while Growing Gardens uses the experience of growing food to cultivate healthy, equitable communities. The mission of hackathon participants was to use public and open source technology to build a digital experience that improves the organizations’ abilities to better serve their communities.
After powerful opening presentations from Portland tech leaders — including Puppet’s senior director of product operations, Padmashree Koneti, and Nike’s VP of Platform Engineering Courtney Kissler — We Code hackers got to work. They were buoyed by the opening performance of Nike software engineer, Snigdha Roy, who wrote and performed an awesome, inspiring rap called “Imposter Syndrome."
Over the course of two days, teams worked to address various technical challenges that the two organizations face. For Growing Gardens, they tackled problems related to website accessibility and improving the digital experience that connects food growers to consumers. For IRCO, the focus was to improve the website’s user interface and accessibility. Teams also looked to enhance the websites’ user engagement through notifications.
At the end of two fast and furious days of work, each team got three minutes to present their project. Judging criteria included creativity and innovation, benefits and impact and consumer experience.
First-place winners were team Cookie Monsters whose “Growing Gardens Donate Portal” was developed using the Ember.js framework. It offers tools to streamline the donation process, with features to manage in-kind donations, enable Spanish localization, increase accessibility and improve the user experience. The Cookie Monsters team were also excited about plans to move to the cloud and use Express as the web application framework.
The people’s choice award went to “Growing Gardens Together”, which brings producers and consumers together through shared interests and proximity. Consumers can locate nearby producers and tap on the producer icon to send a notification to them. The producer icon also displays the produce that the producer has in store. Built on a LAMP stack and prototyped with Adobe XD, the demo was a working web application with an innovative integration with Google Maps. Future steps might involve creating a mobile app, while expanding exchangeable goods to gardening supplies, equipment and recipes.
All eighteen projects that came out of the hackathon are licensed under either the Apache or MIT open source licenses, so that the non-profits can continue to benefit from them. Check them out on We Code’s DevPost submissions page.
Join in the #wecodeforgood conversation on twitter to get involved. We look forward to seeing you there next year!