When you think of a computer hacker, do you picture a teenage loner staring at a computer screen in a basement somewhere, intent on doing harm? You might want to think again. For 10 female SBCC students who participated in the UCSB hackathon “WomxnHacks 2,” computer coding was all about solving social problems and helping others through teamwork, support, creativity and mutual support.
WomxnHacks 2, a 36-hour event last January, saw over 70 female-identifying student programmers collaborating in small groups to create a team project from start to finish. At the end, the students showcased their skills and hard work with live demos, presenting their finished products to their peers and industry professionals. Of the 28 projects that were submitted, the SBCC teams won three out of 12 awards: Best Education Hack, Best Runner Up Hack (Advanced), and Beginner Honorary Mention.
The Best Education Hack went to “U Finder,” a mobile app that, according to creators Eve Javier, Valentina Venegas and Lihong Wu, “helps you find the perfect college roommate. Our goal was to do something new and challenging and learn new skills.”
In describing the inspiration for creating the app, the team pointed to the issues of privacy and safety. “When communicating over Facebook or Craigslist, not everyone is always who they advertise to be,” explained Lihong Wu. “We eliminate this risk of false identity by marketing our app towards universities and institutions ... students will register and log in with their university-administered email and password, which ensures that they attend the college,” she continued. Students are prompted to complete a questionnaire and are asked how similar to themselves they would like their possible roommate to be. After their answers have been compared, a scroll of people and the percent to which they are similar to the user will display. The user can then look through the possible roommate’s profile answers and choose to contact from there.
When asked what’s next for “U Finder,” Eve Javier replied, “We want to keep working on it and pitch it to SBCC!”
“Recycle Right” took the honor for Best Runner Up Hack (Advanced). “Recycling is great for the planet,” acknowledged teammember Monica Aguilar, “but it is getting more and more confusing for people to decipher what is recyclable and what isn't.” With that in mind, she and teammates Alysha Osbakken and Isabel Agundis (along with UCSB student Nina Grabka) created an app that helps people decipher their trash. “Just hold out your item,” said Monica, “press the button, and wait until a light indicates if it’s recyclable or not. This is a great technology that can be easily implemented into parks and open spaces, schools and other places that many people (and recycles!) gather.”
Estella Ramirez, Jeanette Espinosa, Sara Saib and Karina Portugal received the Beginner Honorary Mention award for their time-management app, “ClockIt.” Recognizing how time management is a problem in daily life (especially for students!), they created an app that will block certain distracting apps, allowing the user to focus on their tasks for a certain amount of time or refrain from using their phone. If users would like to access their locked apps before their “productive” time is over, they must complete a task along the lines of a math problem or short essay.
Despite the challenges – having only 36 hours to learn new technologies, create an app and demonstrate it to a panel of judges – all of the SBCC students in each group reported coming away from the hackathon energized and more confident. Eve Javier beamed, “Now I feel like I can do anything!”