After an inspiring welcome reception Friday evening, RHoK Austin kicked off Saturday morning with an amazing space and a tremendous energy. An army of over 50 hackers was ready to dive head first into the problems, and the subject matter experts were prepared to lead their teams to success. Six problems emerged from the ether and the hackers, designers and project managers set to work early on understanding the requirements and wireframing the solutions. We were joined by a tremendous guest, Astronaut Ron Garan (@astro_ron), who just recently returned from the International Space Station (see his video on Fragile Oasis.) Ron and Ali Llewellyn (@adllewellyn) described The Collaboration Project and the amazing task ahead of creating a dashboard for Spaceship Earth, as well as a single repository for all civic minded projects.
We had a couple of projects still firmly in the original vein of RHoK, disaster management. Mackenzie Kelly (@mkelly007) pitched her plan of creating an Online Social Media for Emergency Management application (The Ready Global App) for Williamson County that users can opt-in to receive push notifications of significant events or impending emergencies in the area, and has since recruited a serious team of hackers from across the U.S. who are vigorously working on this new tool. Laura Lanford traveled all the way from the windy city of Chicago, and is toughing it out here in Austin with our temperatures in the 50's while developers from across the globe work on enhancing the event management functionality in the Sahana Eden project with her.
Moving beyond disasters, a number of teams are working on applications to benefit people in need here in Austin and across the world. Chip Rosenthal (@chipr)is tirelessly working on a web application to map the community technology resources in Austin to make them more accessible to people in need. His work is putting the finishing touches on the web site, so that it can be deployed into the field. Charles Wagner pitched the idea of building an open source Augmented Alternative Communication (AAC) device, with a slick demo of an iPad application that can take a series of pictographs and turn it into spoken language. His team of engineers is working to add localization and a more robust mobile interface.
Finally, a team of engineers formed during Friday night's reception around an idea to help Breakthrough Austin graph student success over time, even though they only had a promise of some sample data and a very short description of the problem. The team has worked tirelessly throughout the day to research the problem, design user interfaces and build a new data visualization application from scratch. At 9pm the team reached out to the Director of Breakthrough Austin to ask if he'd be available to attend the judging on Sunday, and for a complete surprise the Director himself drove down to RHoK Austin at 11:45 tonight to sit with the team for over an hour.
It may be late here in the Central time zone, but the teams are still going strong with many not showing any signs of stopping. Just like a good concert, Austin is going to keep RHoKing late into the night!