SANTA CLARA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Santa Clara University will host its second Hack for the Homeless from Feb. 28 to March 1.
The 24-hour hackathon, taking place 10 a.m. Saturday - 10 a.m. Sunday at the University’s Kennedy Commons, involves coding mobile apps that the homeless can use.
Last year, about 50 students from Santa Clara and San Jose State University participated in the University’s first hackathon. This year, organizers are casting a wider net, inviting students from other Bay Area schools and hoping for about 100 students.
The students will help with Mobile4All, a program from the nonprofit Community Technology Alliance (CTA). Students will work in teams or alone to code apps for phones that have been donated by corporate donors, with the goal of helping the users find services, food, and shelter.
“These kids are really savvy,” said Silvia Figueira, associate professor of computer engineering and head of Santa Clara University’s Mobile Lab, which does mobile development for social benefit, especially in Africa and Asia. “It’s amazing what they can do in 24 hours.”
Vincente Ciancio ’16, a computer science and engineering major, organized last year’s and this year’s hackathon. He said the event gets students to think beyond the apps they would use and consider the perspective of homeless users – many of whom don’t have data plans.
Although it may seem counterintuitive that someone who can’t afford rent would have a phone, Figueira said, a number of services help people pay for phones, since they can be an important tool in rebuilding a stable life.
And the students get experience not found in classrooms.
“One of the things that employers are looking for is experience working on projects that are larger than some of the things we do in a lot of classwork,” said Natalie Linnell, lecturer in the mathematics and computer science department.
Students donate the code they write, which is often at a prototype level, to the University, which donates it to the nonprofit interested in deploying it.
Judges rate the projects on criteria such as user interface, functionality, and level of difficulty. The first place prize last year was $1,000.