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RHoK: Hacking Towards a Better Ottawa

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Hardly a week goes by where I get to think of how awesome my job is.

The second weekend of April had me back at the Adobe conference room in Ottawa where just a week before, ForwardJS Ottawa bought twenty awesome talks to the Nationโ€™s capital.

This time, it was for Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK), a twice a year hackathon where organizations submit projects in need and participants apply their skills to hack out a solution.

Project one involved Growing Futures, an organization committed to bettering the next generation by using hydroponics to teach our youth about good food and good business. They were seeking a way to remotely manage the growing system of hydroponic stacks around the city. The resulting solution was a fantastic mix of hardware, software and data visualization.

Project two was submitted by the Gifts in Kind program, which takes on the massive and highly important task of connecting donors with gift in-kind donations to non-profit organizations in Ottawa. With a limited operating budget, the program needs help capturing usage data of its donations and a smarter way to let donors and recipients connect to the program. The RHoK team for this project did a great job laying the groundwork to an intuitive system that will connect donors and recipients to the program with greater ease.

Project three saw seeking help. An awesome program that provides free robots to school libraries while giving students access to some robot coding fun, the current submission process for their robot challenges is highly manual and server intensive. The team tasked with fixing the problem came up with a great solution to not only automate the submission process, but also keep the safety and privacy of students as top priority while ensuring the system could scale with the barrage of videos coming their way.

Project four was submitted to help iSisters educate women in need. The iSisters organization was created to mentor women in need at no cost to them. Unfortunately the technology its currently built on is outdated and needs major modernization. Their team did a great job of revamping the site and giving it a crisp facelift and more intuitive UI.

Project five was about an undertaking by Fair Vote Canada to try and make every Canadians vote more equal. The organization was looking for software to allow its canvassers an easier time tracking and managing canvassing areas. The resulting project will surely help Fair Vote Canada take great leaps towards achieving its goal.

The final project (which I was a part of) was submitted by the Carlington Community Health Centre to breathe life into an Ottawa Bad Date List that would help the sex-trade workers in the city have a safer working environment. The organization was looking for an app that could be used by phone or desktop that would allow workers to not only see vital information to clients that were posing harm to the trade, but submit their own information quickly to ensure the safety of their fellow workers. The end product in the hackathon was a great step towards achieving that goal.

The final presentations of the hackathon were live-streamed here (audio was missing for the first 13 minutes but they caught all the presentations), but the amazing thing that comes out of this is that these projects never seem to end when the weekend does.

Participants of the RHoK hackathons seem to have a habit of continuing on to make sure these projects reach a conclusion and itโ€™ll be exciting to see the results of all the hard work in the real world.

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