A group of 16-to 23-year-olds divided into five teams to create socially conscious technology — one group's smartphone app involved sexual harassment, another app was for LGBT youth — that would provide resources or ways for teens to connect with counselors or their peers.
The three-day Justice Solutions Hackathon was held in early November by the Communities for Just Schools Fund in cooperation with digitalundivided for teens and young adults attending the Education Anew: Shifting Justice conference in Memphis, Tennessee.
"A hackathon is a gathering of technologists who come together to solve a problem," said Darlene Gillard of digitalundivided, a group that supports minority female entrepreneurs.
With the help of their mentor, participants drew from personal experience when deciding what purpose and which demographic their app or chat bot would serve.
This is also a competition: The five groups that participated showcased their work before four judges who chose one winner. Each member of the winning team received an Xbox gaming console, but not before they had to share their work with all of the conference attendees.
“The results are amazing. I mean, you have some students who are creating bots, applications, websites, and it's really encouraging to have them do this sort of thing because it gives them inspiration to potentially get into technology and the startup space," Gillard said. "It's a dual-sided initiative to: one, find solutions to problems they deal with every day but to also to get them interested in technology and to potentially go on to become founders of tech-enabled companies.”
“My mentors are amazing,” said Cali JordanGotay, 18, from The Bronx. "It's wonderful to see people in the field of technology who can help you bring your ideas to life."
JordanGotay’s group developed the groundwork for an app aimed at youth who are passionate about social justice and interested in interacting with like-minded peers. “It's about the people who are in school who don't really have a place to express their opinions about what's going on today.”