On the morning of October 30, more than 100 people gathered together to launch something truly special: a 24-hour Hackathon. So what the heck is a Hackathon? A Hackathon is an event in which coders, hackers, and developers meet to engage in collaborative computer programming. For 24 hours, the teams come up with creative tech solutions to problems they are assigned. And for this event, the teams had one challenge: hacking foster care.
To do this, the Connected Youth Initiative teamed up with an organization called Think Of Us, which is working on an app for young people who are in or aging out of foster care. The goal is to make it easier for young people to access vital information, communicate with case workers or other service providers, and find resources for the things they need when they need them.
The 24-hour event kicked off with a welcome from Nebraska Children’s Jason Feldhaus, followed by remarks from Nebraska First Lady Susanne Shore and Think Of Us CEO Sixto Cancel. Then, a group of foster youth alumni came up to share their stories, give their insights on what could’ve helped them be even more successful, and offer suggestions for goals for the Hackathon.
After the panel discussion and lunchtime, it was time to break into groups and start designing. Several groups worked at the same time, from young people to case workers to web developers, all working on identifying problems and proposing solutions. Susanne Shore even got in on the design sessions, participating in the youth technology testers session where youth were introduced to the technology platform for the first time.
The group came together again for dinner, after which they participated in a talent show, explored the virtual reality and 3D printing labs in Metropolitan Community College’s new Center for Advanced and Emerging Technology, and worked with web developers to brainstorm new ideas. Eighteen youth ended up staying the full 24 hours!
The event wrapped up the next morning with developer presentations — including a presentation from one of the young people! — and videos from the event that the Think Of Us team edited overnight. Additionally, participants were given the opportunity to share what they’d learned about their experience.
Overall, the event was a huge success and we’re so thankful to the sponsors who made it possible, including Metropolitan Community College, HyVee, Pepsi, Concentric Corporation, AIM Institute, Omaha Print Shop, and many more. Nebraska is truly leading the way in innovation because of events like the Hackathon and the Think Of Us technology, and we’re excited to see what new developments arise following all the hard work participants did to #HackFosterCare.