ATX Hack for Change

This past weekend, I had the amazing and rewarding experience of participating in the ATX Hack for Change event, a local event which was part of the 2nd Annual National Day of Civic Hacking.

I was unsure about what to expect when I decided to sign up. I had not participated in any hack events and wasn't sure what to expect. Since volunteering is an integral part of my life and, well, hacking is what I do all day, I thought I'd give it a try. I'm so glad that I did!

The weekend started out on Saturday morning in an auditorium at St. Edwards University campus. About 24 projects were pitched. The projects ranged in topic and complexity but they all were looking for people to make them a reality. After the pitch, I was asked to pick a project. For me, it was a toss up between the projects for Girl Scouts and GenAustin. Girl Scouts is one of my passions and the project I was inclined to work on, but since I do a lot of work for them already, I wanted to expand my reach so I selected the GenAustin project.

Our team had a few members and we spent some time discussing the project requirements with our 'client contact.' We got more specific information from her about what her needs were and quickly realized that one of our team members had a solution readily available with the tool his company built. So we decided to implement that tool to facilitate communication between the organization and their volunteers. Additionally we learned that one of the oft-asked questions was what schools does GenAustin serve. We learned that GenAustin has a WordPress site that is run by a volunteer so we decided to find a map plug-in for WP and build it out as a demo and provide detailed step-by-step instructions for the volunteer to implement the map on the GenAustin site.

On Sunday, there were multiple pleas by the Girl Scouts team for back end developer help. Given that our GenAustin projects were small in scale and almost complete by Sunday morning, I spent some time assisting the Girl Scouts team, trying to get a log in area built for them. Their project intent was to build an online portal for girls working toward their Gold Award to communicate with the Gold Award committee. Unfortunately, their project scope was so great, we didn't have much time to get much accomplished for them. However, there was a great designer and front-end developer on the team that helped the "Coder Girls" flesh out their user flow diagrams.

At the end of Sunday, we all gathered once again in the auditorium for the project presentations. One project team would win SXSW passes based on popular vote. There was also a panel of judges to provide feedback and ask questions. A total 17 projects worked to complete their goal, and of those 16 presented at the end of the weekend. The Girl Scouts team impressed and tied for second place.

All in all it was a very rewarding way to spend a weekend. I hope to be able to participate again next year and possibly recruit some of my hacker friends to participate too!