Chicago RHoKs! and we were there

We have reactions to the event from 3 of Yahoo!'s female participants: Avni Khatri, Tiger team software engineer, authored the main post, with additional comments from Natalia Vinnik, Frameworks software engineer, and scholarship winner Malveeka Tewari, a Computer Science graduate student at the University of California, San Diego.
RHok Chicago 2.0 - CERTMalveeka Tewari, Natalia Vinnik, Avni Khatri, and Nico Preston

We did it: The challenge was for women to make up 20% of the participants at Random Hacks of Kindness event #2 on December, and our Chicago contingent was 33% female. All in all, RHoK reports some 1,500 hackers in 20 locations around the world. Above all, though, what came through was the spirit of collaboration between people. Didn't matter what company or where people came from: We were all there to do good and that was evident.

Malveeka Tewari In accordance to the theme of RHoK, all projects focused on building tools for better disaster management and that facilitate better management and transfer of communication during the times of need. All teams showed great enthusiasm for building sound technology and contributing for good. The spirit for kindness as well as hacking was high all throughout the event.

RHoK Chicago 2.0 #81

Natalia Vinnik The collaboration was beyond imaginable. People collaborated not only within one location, but also with people around the world, using streaming video and IRC channels. We didn't just hit 20% challenge of women participants, we leapt over it. It was great to see so many women who participated and women who won!

The organization was superb. From location, logistics, food, security, registration, t-shirts, to photography — everything was great. It was awesome to have live feeds of the other locations around the world. So well organized!
CNA lit up their building for RHoKChicago sponsor CNA Insurance lit up its building for the event

Natalia Vinnik The reception was at the Science museum in the submarine room. We were able to mingle with other participants, meet organizers and sponsors, as well as learn about projects. We were also able to get an amazing tour about submarine by the security guard who worked that night.

The quality of the projects was amazing. From modifications to PersonFinder to do full text searching and linking with Twitter, to building on the Sahana Foundation framework for the Chicago Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), to mobile applications, and to building projects from scratch (urban search-and-rescue, flood-level mapping), the caliber of the projects was very high.

Natalia Vinnik We worked on a project for Chicago CERT using Sahana Framework. It was very inspiring to hear about their needs and to build an application for them right away. Check out our Slideshare presentation.

RHoK Chicago

The winning team, Urban Search and Rescue, comprised 4 women and 1 man.
RHoK Chicago - the winning project team

Malweeka Tewari All the teams expressed keen interest in taking their projects forward and sustaining the effort that was put during the hackathon. The willingness to collaborate and coming up solutions that would have both both local and global impacts was very evident. The participants included hackers, social entrepreneurs, and representatives from the crisis and disaster management team that were the intended users for the products that came out of this hackathon. This also helped in building tools that were complete in the sense that it had inputs from not just the developers as well as the users.

You can read about previous winning hacks on the RHoK website. The projects are also described on MookyTech.

Malweeka Tewari The tools that were built included:
– Using PDA/smartphone-based approach to identify unsafe houses in disaster-struck regions and communicate the information to a central server. This was the winning project and the team had 4 women and 1 guy. So the women not won only the 20% challenge but also built the winning app.
– A tool that structured and facilitated the use of large amounts of data that's already available from NASA so that the data can be more accessible in times of need. This data included satellite images of the land relief and other related information that becomes crucial when a disaster hits.
– Extensions to Person Finder that included integration with Twitter and building a more flexible search backend for Person Finder.
– A volunteer management system that could could be used to identify volunteers with required skills and contact them automatically asking them to respond to the disaster.
– Apps that could send frequent beacons of information regarding a person's state (whether or not the person is ok or not).
– A tool that could be used to better understand the relief features in hilly areas in developing nations so that the risk from the landslides and earthquakes can better handled.

For more photos, see the official Flickr photostream of the event.

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Editor's Note:Yahoo! is a founding partner of RHoK, along with Google, Microsoft, NASA, and the World Bank.