Student Competitions

Santa Clara U Hosts Second Hack for the Homeless Event

Santa Clara University is preparing to host its second annual 24-hour Hack for the Homeless event from 10 a.m. on February 28 to 10 a.m. on March 1.

Last year's inaugural hackathon involved about 50 students from Santa Clara University and San Jose State University. This year's organizers have opened up the event to students from other schools in the Bay Area and are hoping for about 100 participants.

The students will work in teams or individually to code smartphone apps to help homeless people find services, food and shelter. The university worked with the nonprofit organization, Community Technology Alliance (CTA), to define the projects the students will work on.

This year, Hack for the Homeless participants will help with the CTA program Mobile4All, which is a community-based mobile phone service for homeless and extremely low income people in Santa Clara County. Companies donate the phones, and CTA provides the phones to people in need along with a tailored service, and the recipients use the phones to communicate with potential employers and landlords, follow up with case managers, schedule appointments and connect with friends and family.

Vincente Ciancio, a computer science and engineering major at Santa Clara University, organized both Hack for the Homeless events. The hackathon is intended to get students "to think beyond the apps they would use and consider the perspective of homeless users," while getting coding experience beyond the classroom, according to information from the university.

Students donate their prototype code to the university, which in turn donates it to the CTA. Hackathon projects are judged on their user interface, functionality, level of difficulty and other criteria. Last year's first place prize was $1,000.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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