The MinneAnalytics team had a great time helping out at Hack for MN at The Nerdery this past weekend. Hosted by Open Twin Cities, the event invited Minnesota talent to come together to use publicly available data to better the community. This year Open Twin Cities partnered with the Minnesota Interagency Council on Homelessness for a design challenge aimed at helping homeless veterans in Minnesota.
The event started at 10:00AM on Saturday and featured some very cool speakers. Bill Bushey of Open Twin Cities did a great job of getting everyone excited for the event and he was essentially the MC of the weekend. OMG Transit founder Matt Decuir spoke next and encouraged all of the participants to be open to new ideas. This was especially fitting because OMG Transit got its start at a previous Hack for MN event. Minneapolis City Council Member Andrew Johnson, who himself has a background in tech, spoke of the importance of political initiatives to keep data open to the public.
A highlight of the opening remarks was a statement of support read by a representative of Senator Al Franken. Other speakers included Hennepin County GIS Coordinator Andrew King-Scribbins and Minnesota Director to Prevent and End Homelessness Cathy ten Broeke. The opening proceedings ended with a rock-paper-scissors tournament between all of the attendees. This definitely helped to break the ice and ended with an outcry of cheers for the winner.
At this point, all of the people who had signed up for the Heading Home Challenge were invited to leave the auditorium to begin working. This was the design challenge aimed at helping homeless veterans in Minnesota. This was a large group and it was apparent that the idea of helping out with this public issue appealed to many participants.
Next it was time to hear the idea pitches. Participants with an idea for a project were encouraged to come to the podium and pitch it to the rest of the group. There were ten pitches in all and ideas ranged from an application to aggregate and make available air quality data, to a platform to connect people in the community looking for group activities to participate in. After all of the pitches were made, participants were set loose to form groups and begin working.
Watching the hackers hard at work on their projects made it obvious how passionate they are about using their talent for a worthy cause. The Nerdery was alive with people discussing, designing and developing. Good food was served and a lot of caffeine was consumed. Day One ended at 10:00PM so that everyone could get some well-earned rest.
The next day saw the groups back at work to prepare for presentations. At about 2:00 in the afternoon everyone gathered back in the auditorium. In all, there were five groups presenting in the Open Hack and another three groups presenting in the Heading Home Challenge. Some of the presentations were more developed than others, but there were no bad ideas.
The judges did not choose winners, but rather critiqued the presentations and provided feedback to help the ideas move forward. The judges were well-chosen and represented both the private and public sector.
Hack for MN 2014 showed what can be accomplished when you mix a group of talented people with passion and ideas. The possibilities of using data for the good of the community are seemingly endless and it is important to support events such as Hack for MN so we can see where these possibilities lead us.
For more information on the ideas, speakers and judges, check out HackforMN.org