National Day of Civic Hacking 2016

Over this past weekend Code for America sponsored a National Day of Civic Hacking all across the U.S. The event was designed to bring people in their communities together to create something that would be useful for their community regardless of their abilities to write code or not (I’m not a developer, I just know python very well and some fun tricks in java). A local chapter was responsible for putting on the event and hosting it, for St. Petersburg it was Code for Tampa Bay and The Iron Yard. The best part is, all of the projects are open source (find ours here).

Upon arrival we were given an introduction and then were allowed to break into our small teams to work on the project. Ultimately the project that I landed with was to create a “portal” for Pinellas County (Florida) families and teachers/administrators to use to connect them to Social Services (e.g. Food, transportation, shelter, mentoring, special needs resources), Education (aside from schools, such as extracurriculars), mental health providers (including group therapy), and healthcare. This was an incredibly ambitious task that required intense planning, research, and developing.

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Within our group we had three web developers (one was a graphic designer), a business analyst, a school teacher, a business owner, and myself (a bioinformatician). The idea was led by the Mayor of St. Petersburg’s Director of Education and Community Engagement Leah McRae.

Ultimately we developed the website and put together a Three Phase strategy for development. Our goal was to get through the first phase in the short 7 hours we had remaining. The back end development went relatively smoothly and we ran into some issues with trying to develop a front end in time, but we put together something we were proud of and ultimately tying for 2nd place. We called it “Sunshine Family Connection.”

It was a great experience where I was able to learn many of the differences between what I’m capable of and how to contribute in such a diverse group of individuals to help our community. My primary role was research and the development of a Wizard that helped the end user navigate the site without the need for the search bar. This was a natural role for me because I work tirelessly for great data visualizations with my research.

Regardless of your abilities to code, I highly recommend that you go to the next National Day of Civic Hacking. Bring an idea, your knowledge of business, the community, or any particular skill; it’s a great way to get involved and help our communities!

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