Programmers unite to find solutions for real-world problems
in Orlando unite to find solutions for real-world problems during this year’s National Day of Civic Hacking.
A potential emergency always made former substitute teacher Lisa Vinson nervous, figuring out each school’s rules for active shooters or an injured student.
Now working in the tech field, Vinson tried Saturday to fix that problem along with a handful of programmers at the Orlando site for the National Day of Civic Hacking.
From voter education to clearing storm drains, programmers put their collective heads together to brainstorm for the greater good. It’s a yearly program that in the past has tackled problems like improving Orlando’s permitting process, making it easier to access city meeting’s over Amazon’s Alexa devices and redesigning Orlando’s flag.
The National Day of Civic Hacking is a program stretching coast to coast and headed by Code for America. In the past, the National Day of Civic Hacking has resulted in programs such as one in Houston to alert residents ahead of hurricanes.
Code for Orlando coordinates the event in Central Florida, and this year got the
best turnout since it began here said Andrew Kozlik, one of the organization’s leaders.
“For us, it’s about actually getting projects built that help solve real-world problems,” Kozlik said. “We can get together and hear from people from all sorts of places about how to fix issues people deal with every day.”
At the event, participants split into groups to work on projects they were interested in. Vinson’s group was made up of a schoolteacher, a parent and a social activist. All were concerned about how to get information to teachers quickly in the event of an emergency at a school.
“Sometimes in an emergency, you don’t always know what’s going on or you can’t access the book of procedures quick enough when trying to manage all those students,” said Natalie Roberts, an Osceola County school teacher.
New school safety rules passed by Florida lawmakers after the February shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is showing how complicated school safety is for schools and teachers alike, Roberts said.
The group’s plan was to put together an app that teachers could use to quickly sort through various scenarios. That way teachers can access school policies in the event of a shooter, a tornado, a fight or an injured student. Another goal was an alert feature.
“I picked this because I’m a parent with a daughter in school,” said Ryan Compton, an Orlando software developer.
Another group tried to create a portal to give voters more information on local elections, particularly for obscure positions where candidate information isn’t widely available.
One group of more than a dozen developers and students were trying to find a way to compile information on why tech talent was moving away from Central Florida after college.
That team was made up of college students, hiring managers and a few that were set to leave Orlando for better job opportunities in Atlanta and California. The group was looking to both figure out how much tech talent is leaving the area and find out why.
The teams weren’t charged with completing an app or website in one day, but leaders hoped they could create a plan to deliver to the City of Orlando or other groups for more development.
“You hear so much about people leaving the area, but there isn’t the data out there right now to show how much it’s actually happening,” Code for Orlando’s Erin Denton said. “But we can come out here and work together and find solutions.”
Code for Orlando’s Erin Denton leads a brainstorming session as part of the National Day of Civic Hacking in Orlando on Saturday. KYLE ARNOLD/STAFF
Brizzell Scott, left, Ryan Compton and Natalie Roberts work on a school safety idea at the National Day of Civic Hacking.