It’s only a few hours into the second annual Hacks 4 Humanity hackathon on Saturday, Oct. 3, and already cases of energy drinks are being wheeled into Stauffer Hall on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus.
They’ll come in handy as participants, gathered around tables and huddled over laptops, will have worked for 36 hours straight by the time the ASU Project Humanities-sponsored event comes to a close Sunday evening.
The so-called “hackathon for the social good” asks participants to create technology solutions and initiatives that address the needs of humanity, with the seven principles of Project Humanities’ “Humanity 101” movement in mind: compassion, empathy, forgiveness, integrity, kindness, respect and self-reflection.
The people who have chosen to dedicate their weekend to this cause are techies, programmers, developers, humanists, artists, students, educators and creative visionaries of all ages and walks of life.
“I’m amazed how people come together for this. They’re so committed,” said Neal Lester, ASU professor of English and creator and director of Project Humanities, an award-winning university initiative that “seeks to connect the university and local communities in talking, listening and connecting ... to create positive change in people and communities across political, socioeconomic, geographic and cultural boundaries, and in our daily lives.”
Sharon Torres, coordinator of the initiative, said the hackathon capitalizes on society’s ever-evolving love affair with technology.
“Technology has become the language we speak, and social media has become our way to be in touch with the world — so we might as well use it for the greater good." — Sharon Torres, Project Humanities coordinator
“Some might argue that the younger generation’s attachment to social media has created an insularity that disconnects them on a human level. The truth is … technology does not have to surpass our humanity. Technology can be used to enable us to connect on a very human level, and the innovative ideas we anticipate to come out of this year’s Hacks for Humanity will prove that,” she said.
This year, those ideas ranged from apps that assist in calming car-crash victims to finding kidney donors to helping pedestrians better navigate cities.
Participant Kate Pond explained her group’s idea of a website designed to help people reach personal goals. An intern with a local media company, Pond decided to participate in the hackathon as a way to be more involved in her community and to stoke her own creativity.
“It’s nice to give back,” she said. “And I think it’s always fun to meet new people and just get your creative juices flowing.”