On May 4 and 5, approximately 400 attendees met at Drexel University’s Daskalakis Athletic Center to compete for the best software and hardware hacks to solve issues around economic inequality at the seventh annual Philly Codefest, presented by Comcast NBC Universal and Drexel University’s College of Computing & Informatics (CCI).
Both students and professionals from all experience levels and backgrounds collaborated to develop tech tools to impact a variety of challenges related to economic inequality in the Greater Philadelphia area and beyond. Participants were encouraged to design software and hardware hacks around key focus areas including financial literacy and security; food insecurity; environmental safety; the digital divide; healthcare access and the opioid epidemic; affordable housing and homelessness; voter access; and employment equity.
Drexel’s premier hackathon event kicked off on the morning of May 4 with a welcome from CCI Dean and Isaac L. Auerbach Professor Yi Deng, PhD, followed by a keynote address from Rick Rioboli, SVP & CIO of Comcast Cable.
In addition to presenting sponsor Comcast NBC Universal, Philly Codefest 2019 was also made possible by CCI Corporate Partners American Water (event and game room sponsor), eMoney Advisor, HomeNet Automotive, and Aramark, as well as Linode, Vanguard, Indeed, Google and the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship.
Codefest 2019 also featured interactive and educational workshops throughout the day, including an Artificial Intelligence workshop hosted by American Water, a resume review workshop with Comcast, a personal branding workshop with Vanguard SAP, a Google Cloud Platform workshop, and an incubator session with DrExel Health Solutions.
Attendees formed teams to work on projects over the course of the 30-hour hackathon, and then presented their final creations to a panel of judges – comprised of Drexel faculty, alumni, CCI Corporate Partners, sponsors and tech community leaders.
The following eight teams and projects were selected by the judges as some of the most innovative and impactful projects to emerge out of Philly Codefest 2019:
1) Team Nest - Philly Codefest 2019 Student Team Award
Members: Adeeb Abbas (BS computer science ’23), Bruce McCulloch (BS data science, ‘22), Neil Kanakia (BS computer science ’23), Pranav Bhogal (BS computer science ’23)
Description: “There are as many as 1.6 billion people who lack adequate housing (Habitat, 2015). Our aim is to connect such people with the resources available out there. With the help of our app homeless people will be able to access and easily find resources such as shelter, kitchens and toilets near them. From our live chat feature, we wish to help out those seeking immediate help by connecting them to the 24/7 volunteers available at partner NGOs. The feed will update in real time to find articles posted by organizations on the internet to which can be of help to people seeking assistance.”
Inspiration: “While the project was conceived with India and other 3rd world countries in mind. We soon realized that this project can be scaled to meet these specific demands in Philadelphia and most cities around the world.”
What’s Next: “We want this application to be used in other cities, too, such as Philadelphia. Once we have developed the dataset, we can create databases and other cities, too. In the future, we could expand it to other cities or get NGOs to collaborate with the live stream and the feed updates.”
2) Team DASH – Philly Codefest 2019 Collaborative Award
Members: Isaiah Harrison, Mark Rad (BS Management Information Systems ‘20), Anh Lu, Mitchell Philmore
Description: “DASH (Dynamic Access System for Healthcare) stores relevant medical information and medical histories of the users willing to participate in the system. When the address of the user is accessed, the user is asked for authenticating information to verify the identity of the person who is accessing the medical records. There is an additional authentication method for emergency service providers and medical staff with permission to access these records. Documents are only able to be updated or deleted by authorized medical providers for the safety of the users.”
Inspiration: “Too many people go to free clinics or healthcare providers that do not keep their records clean and up-to-date. This presents challenges to Emergency Medical Technicians, Emergency Room Technicians and physicians. We wanted to provide a system to low/no income individuals to have a place to keep their medical records with little cost to the government or public and with a drastic reduction of lost or incorrect records.”
What’s Next: “Our next integration idea is to integrate DASH with blockchain technology to be able to hold records publicly in ledgers and accessible privately in a similar way that wallets work with finances.”
3) Team GimmeShelter – Drexel CCI Corporate Partners Program People's Choice Award; Philly Codefest Best Hack for Social Good; Comcast Learning Module for Internet Essentials Customers Award; Comcast Low Cost Internet for Students Award; American Water Volunteer App - Give/Receive Together Award; Google Best Use of Google Cloud Platform Award
Members: Stephen Hansen, Daniel Schwartz (BS computer science ‘22), Nathaniel Yaakov (BS computer science ‘22), Nick DeFilippis (BS computer science and mathematics ‘22), Dennis George (BS computer science, ‘22), Damien Prieur (BS computer science ‘22)
Description: “GimmeShelter provides information of shelters and food banks to individuals custom to their location without access to internet. Users subscribe to our daily announcements and enroll with their gender, number of dependents, and region. In addition, we have a client facing website that provides shelter and food bank information via a heat map and a filterable calendar.”
Inspiration: “My Alternative Spring Break trip from the Pennoni Honors College last year focused on homelessness. I spent a week living at a homeless shelter in Old City and each day would volunteer at a different food bank and shelter. I spent a lot of time sitting down with individuals who had no permanent residence and asked them if there was anything I could do to help. A lot of individuals mentioned that the only access they had to internet was via the public library or free internet kiosks; however, almost everyone had a private non-smartphone.”
What’s Next: “Add custom geo-location filtering subscriptions. Add live bed capacity functionality. Filter messages based on user data.”
4) Team DeepPhilaOD - Close School Innovation Award
Members: Julius Shan (BS management information systems ’20), Angela Tomita (BS/MS biomedical engineering ’19), Ethan Budzynski (BS computer science ’23)
Description: “This project models the opioid epidemic progression and predicts its progression through analysis of EMS radio audio, such as on police channels using Broadcastify, to identify incidents of opioid-related calls along with other attributes like location and time. The proposed predictive model DeepPhilaOD is a deep convolutional neural network that generates predictions of overdoses for certain zip codes. Preliminary training and testing has resulted in 99.99% accuracy, but only 5 zip code areas were analyzed.”
Inspiration: “Philadelphia is one of many locations in the US that is affected by economic inequality. By July 2018, nearly 3 million low-income Pennsylvania residents were enrolled in Medicaid/CHIP. Community poverty has been shown to be a risk factor of drug addiction to which the opioid epidemic is linked. A lot of publicly available data on opioid abuse is not updated on a live basis - usually, it’s quarterly at best. We were hoping that by scanning unconventional channels of information, we could help to identify areas that currently are, and may be hot spot areas for opioid abuse in the future, which helps professionals work proactively in combating the environmental risk factors that contribute to opioid abuse.”
What’s Next: “Although the skeleton of DeepPhilaOD has taken shape, the workflow has yet to be automated. Future works include filtering the audio transcripts with an embedding network, such as the pre-trained word2vec, to determine whether the incidence is opioid overdose-related, whether each new dialogue is a new incident, and so on. Another augmentation could be developed for scraping additional attributes from other EMS data that would ideally improve the model's reliability and prediction.”
5) Team Safety Seal - Linode 2019 Best Hardware Hack Award
Members: Sandeep Sharma (BS mechanical engineering ’22), Jordan Irgang (BS mechanical engineering ’22)
Description: “This IoT prescription pill dispenser only unlocks its contents when a smart phone app asks the doctor's servers if that person has a daily prescription. If that person is given permitted that medication, the device unlocks over Wi-Fi. If the person has used a certain number of unlocks, the device does not open. The android app states how many times the device is allowed to unlock with cute, non-overbearing UI with calming hand-drawn graphics.
Inspiration: “We watched a movie that showed the process of addiction, from medical prescriptions to [illicit drugs such as] heroin.”
What’s Next: “An app and a website for the doctor in case the user loses a pill. The user would have to call their doctor and the doctor can figure out if the user is abusing the pills if the phone calls are excessive.”
6) Team Browser Basics – Indeed’s Most Helpful for Job Seekers Award
Members: Yash Pandey (BS computer science ‘22), Joseph Zhang (BS computer science ‘22), Jason Carrete (BS computer science ‘21), Austin Mislevy (BS computer science ‘22), Zach Matuson (BS computer science ‘22)
Description: “Browser Basics is a chrome extension for users who are not familiar with the internet and what it does. Browser Basics will first provide a quick tutorial for the user that gives the basic functionality of the web. Browser Basics will then follow the user to across the internet and provide input about the user’s environment and actions. Browser Basics also provides Learning Modules for the user in order to learn even more about the internet than Browser Basics can provide.”
What’s Next: “Browser Basics could be scaled to provide a great number of features and advice for users unfamiliar of the internet. Expanding the learning modules would be as simple as doing the research and creating interesting lessons to familiarize the users with various topics. Integrating the Browser Basics extension with the learning modules would also be a good area to expand into.”
7) Team Skimming the Seas – American Water Code for Water Award
Members: William Brown (BS computer science), Constantine Ziogas (BS computer science)
Description: “Skimming the Seas will teach the foundation of coding to players, while providing awareness of polluted water sources. You are provided the task to operate the brand-new Skimmer 9000 and clean Earth's water. There's only one problem: the Skimmer 9000 doesn't run on fossil fuels, rather, it runs on your coding commands.”
Inspiration: “Making a coding educational game and spreading awareness for the environment.”
What’s Next: “Possibly working on the project after school work dies down.”
8) Team Financial Phoenix – Vanguard Financial Literacy Award
Members: Wisdom Mills-Owoo, John Carey, Tessa Flores, Loren Flores, Jean Carlo Vilalta
Description: “The system takes the user through an extremely simple list of questions. It then generates a curated list of milestones that the user can take as action items. In less than 15 seconds, we take you from a water hose of financial information in the world, to a personalized list of action items you can start tackling today.”
Inspiration: “Managing finances is inherently complex to the point that even getting to the information that pertains to you can feel incredibly overwhelming. Our goal was to change just that. We set out to build something that is extremely simple to use; building a solution that is not intrusive and/or data hungry, and one that is lightweight and extremely portable; place high importance on user experience; and ensure that low income individuals/families were our absolute focal point. Our main source of inspiration came from the Personal Finance SubReddit’s Prime Directive.”
What’s Next: “A distribution strategy, either through financial companies, social programs, state/city governments or simple hosting solutions; Create a contribution model and post the solution on github to allow others to build on top of it; Move vetting of the advice and guidance; Increase the personalization of the system (not by adding more questions, but by linking together the survey answers in a more meaningful way); Link individuals to social workers or other people that are there to help; and more UI/UX fine tuning and clean up.”