GA Tech 2013 Code for Good Student Hackathon

For 24 hours in early November, we held the 2nd GA Tech Code for Good Student Hackathon.  In continuation of last year's event here, we retained the theme of teaching healthy lifestyle choices to combat childhood obesity.  From edutainment to exercise games, we seek to create worthwhile projects that can help an at-risk demographic: our future.

With Intel providing the food and Android tablets, the students have been working non-stop on these beneficial games.  Our host at Georgia Tech is Professor Matthew Wolf.  Special guest Cornelia Davis from Pivotal labs joined us to share her expertise on Cloud Foundry, with which the students have hosted and distributed their software. 

Variations on the Theme

From the previous hackathon on this subject, domain experts share insights:

From Healthier Generations -

 Are there technologies that solve similar problems?

Perhaps you’re inspired by a feature of another piece of technology such as an app on your phone, or an online service. Do you know of other technologies that solve similar problems, or solve a problem in a similar way to what you imagine?

Two apps that do some of the things that we think are important are Instagram* and WebMD*. 

Instagram - people can take photos, put them on a map and connect with others through images. In case of childhood obesity, they could take photos and/or map comments about their environment as it relates to access to healthy food and safe places for physical activity. 

WebMD* - similar to how WebMD identifies symptoms and treatments, we would like to offer questions about a person’s environment and help them identify solutions in their environment.

From Dr. Marks

1) the most important thing is to get people moving.  Hopefully walking, but at least moving.  Games that require and reward the kids to actually walk to move the character through the game would be great.

2) Nutrition that not only rates meals, but also allows them to have nutrition information in an understandable format, relevant to school lunches, would also be good.  The overwhelming majority of school foods in this country are provided by a single company, so this is do-able.  It does need to be fun, or kids won't do it.  You can also take advantage of the cameras that most cell phones have these days.  Is there any way to photograph a school lunch and cross reference it with the known inventory of the company supplying the food?  Could you have some kind of reference item of known shape and size that gets photographed with the food so that portion sizes can be estimated?

3) knowledge is power.  Kids that know where their food came from make better choices.  How many kids know, for example, that ketchup is mostly high fructose corn syrup?  Do they even know what a tomato is?

4) kids do in fact educate and pressure their parents in very meaningful ways. The question is how to build in motivation and reward on both sides.

5) is there any way to turn a standard phone into a pedometer?  Can you track how much a child moved so that appropriate rewards can be offered?

6) improving our ability to move through the built environment is key.

There are many map programs that calculate driving routes. Is it possible to calculate the best/safest walking or biking route?

The Teams

Team: "MEM@" 

Game: Geocaching mystery game, find virtual clues at physical locations.  Encourages physical activity by movement among target places.

The team started work using the Cloud9 IDE, an online collaboration tool, while investigating geolocation, Google Maps API, and MongoDB for use with Cloud Foundry.  Unfortunately their lead coder disappeared for a few hours, so the team iterated on high-level design and architecture.  Upon his return, they consolidated their work and reached a working prototype.  Despite trouble integrating with the server, this team's demo was functional by the end of the event.

Demo was diffiult to film, due to the nature of the game.

Final report out:

Team: RADD

Game: Multi-device whack-a-mole style monster catching game.  Requires physical activity to catch monsters, thus gaining points.

From the start, the team split into pairs working on the frontend and backend, using the Handlebars.js templating engine and MongoDB respectively. The interfaces were completed quickly, followed by the registration/login features, but the team hit a snag with MongoDB authentication issues.  As soon as the problems were ironed out, integration went smoothly.

 The final demo was as entertaining to watch as it was to play:

Final report out:


By the end of this event, all involved had enjoyed the time but were ready to rest.  The timing was not ideal- being right after GA Tech's homecoming, when pre-Thanksgiving projects are all coming due- and there was another event happening right down the street, but our reduced turnout allowed closer work with the teams.  This also resulted in the highest percentage of demo-ready apps per team, as both teams reached that milestone.  I look forward to working with GA Tech again next year.


Hackathon announcement:

GA Tech CERCS live blog:

Cornelia's Cloud Foundry blog coverage:



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