Virtual Hackathon a Real Win for Rural Ontario
Updated: Nov 29, 2018
In spite of the snow on November 16, the Brock Youth Centre’s first virtual hackathon kicked off seamlessly. Hosted by a local business in Beaverton, hackers from rural and urban centres alike were able to participate in the event without having to tackle winter weather and challenges of rural transportation.
Hackathons have grown to be a global movement. By fast-tracking the software, hardware and business development processes, hackathons provide participants with valuable skills and a final project that has the potential to turn into a real business. Focusing on Youth Mental Health and Wellness, the goal of the BYC hackathon was to develop the foundation for a mobile application that will be used in a future youth-run social enterprise. Teams were to consist of a coder, designer, mental health advocate, and marketer; all the skills needed to build a solution that will enable youth resilience regarding mental health and wellness. Participants from Cobourg right across to Hamilton formed teams on Friday night. Forty hours later teams submitted their prototype for judging.
Discord, a video, voice and text chat for online gamers was used to enable organizers, participants, subject matter experts, and mentors to share information and answer questions online throughout the weekend. One participant commented: “We would like to extend our gratitude to you and all the BYC staff that made this event possible, as well as all your kind assistance during the hackathon through YouTube live instructions and Discord.” The event was virtual, but the interaction, collaboration and sense of community was very real.
Teams worked remotely Friday night and Saturday, some members together in their local library while others connected their team members online. Pressure was on to complete the prototypes by the 9:00 AM Sunday deadline. Once the proposals were uploaded, they were reviewed by a panel of judges that had travelled to Beaverton to assess submissions as a group. The judges included subject matter experts, graphic design and marketing professionals, business and technology entrepreneurs, and an Angel Investor, each bringing their expertise to the judges’ table.
Virtual or real, this was the first hackathon to be run in the Township of Brock, and it created considerable local buzz. Brock Youth Centre board members, members of the Brock Board of Trade, Brock Library board, and Township Councillors-elect joined the judges on Sunday morning to view the team pitches online and interact with the digital presenters. Durham Region Chair-elect, John Henry, also joined the event on Sunday to view the pitches, witness the technology in action, and officially announce the winning teams online.
The success of a virtual hackathon depends upon the skills of the person managing the technology, and Brock Youth Centre was fortunate to have Bradon Lodwick, a fourth year UOIT student from Beaverton, sitting at the control panel. His ability to integrate the platforms and create a virtual reality enabled teams to remotely develop a mobile app that will become the foundation for a new entrepreneurial initiative that will provide coping strategies for youth mental health and wellness. A virtual program that will be a literal difference maker.
This virtual hackathon was made possible by the Commonwell Mutual Group, Amplifi, BDO Canada, and Lakeridge Health. Thank you for your continued support.