Code for Kansas City wrapped up its annual hackathon in early October at Think Big Partners.
The event drew in about 60 people with a variety of different backgrounds to work on civic technology projects.
In addition to coders, designers, writers, lawyers, GIS analysts and other experts, government representatives also attended and participated in the event. Eric Roche of the City of Kansas City, MO, and Allen Howze of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, KS, both spoke at the event and stressed the importance of open data and each government’s respective open data portal.
“We believe that trust is built through accountability and transparency, and OpenData KC plays a major part in our efforts to improve our community,” Eric Roche said of KCMO’s open data portal. “OpenData KC is about empowering our residents, businesses, and visitors with the same information that our employees use to make decisions, optimize results, and deploy resources.”
Kansas City, KS also created its own public open data site recently, and will add more data from a variety of industries as the site is built out.
Though Code for Kansas City enjoys the occasional government representative at its side, it also brings local start-ups, entrepreneurs and academics to enrich the curriculum of the Hackathon. While coders hack, local entrepreneurs and academics teach classes on relevant topics, like Geographical Information Systems in Tableau and User Experience Design. This year, representatives from one of the HackKC’s sponsors MySidewalk taught a class on their company technology and assisted the team Free the Lots.
“It was good to see government and other organizations drop in and give input to the projects, along with the resulting networking,” Code for KC Captain Paul Barham said.
Aside from the offered classes, the focus of HackKC was the civic technology projects. In the time leading up to HackKC, Code for KC’s core team identified members, engaged citizens and stakeholders that had viable ideas for hackathon projects.
Good project ideas generally address a real problem in a community, have a simple, technological solution and a dedicated project leader.
After they were identified, these project idealists submitted project ideas in the weeks before the hackathon. The project idealists took their projects through optional business management classes during Code for KC’s weekly Hack Nights and then pitched their finalized ideas during the event. From there, hackathon attendees attached themselves to projects they found the most interesting and hacked for the weekend. Now that the event is over, the work will continue during Code for KC’s weekly Hack Nights with the seven most successful projects that emerged from the hackathon:
Graffiti Abatement Tracker —Graffiti Abatement Tracker ended up with one of the largest teams over the weekend! The team worked together to plan the creation of an application that tracks graffiti around the Prospect Ave. corridor, which gives the Community Resource Team the knowledge to remove it.
Free The Lots — Also one of the largest teams to emerge out of the weekend, Free the Lots began to create an API that allows the non-profit organization, Neighborhood Legal Support, to identify abandoned properties that have liens against them. They can use that information to streamline the process of buying abandoned properties in Kansas City.
MapKC — This project team started planning the process for mapping mental health resources in Kansas City. It aspires to be a repository for referring doctors and patients that’s categorized by mental health issues.
MyCommunity — Code for KC had one walk-in project during HackKC. My Community aims to avoid government bureaucracy by using a blockchain payment structure to jumpstart neighborhood projects.
MyTrashDay — This Kansas City, Missouri government-empowered project’s goal is to make it easier to find property-related information like district reps, trash pick-up dates and more.
Bike Routes — This project plans to crowdsource cycling data and routes in Kansas City to improve bicycling infrastructure.
Streetlights — This project will include a map and repository of all the streetlights in Kansas City and the surrounding region. That information will help populate an open database of all the data collected from smart streetlights.
After a quick post-HackKC break, the project teams are back at it! If you’re interested in helping with any of these projects, join the Code for KC Meetup and plan to attend Hack Nights every Monday from 6-8 p.m. at Think Big. Pro tip: There’s free pizza on the first Monday of every month!