By Kayleigh Slogrove, Synthesis Software Developer.
The GirlCode organisation aims to inspire young women to become developers. They have many different programs such as workshops, training programs and a yearly hackathon. This year, I had the pleasure of being one of the judges for this incredible hackathon. I have participated in hackathons before but this was my first time as a judge and, let me tell you, it is an entirely different experience!
As a participant, you prepare yourself for the hackathon by buying energy drinks, wearing comfortable clothing and trying to guess the theme of the event. As a judge, I prepared myself by studying the theme, trying to figure out how I would’ve solved the problem presented and guessing what the participants would present. As it turns out, I had no idea what they would present. These young women completely exceeded my expectations. The theme of the hackathon this year was to solve one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. Many of the teams focused on issues that South Africa is most struggling with, such as gender equality, quality education and zero hunger. It was incredible to see the ideas presented which could eventually solve some of these problems.
The winning team developed a chatbot (in 48 hours) that would store a person’s housing location, and when that person was experiencing abuse, would send out that location to the community so they could send assistance to that person. The team that came second developed a period tracker which turned out to be a front for reporting occurrences of gender-based violence! A person could also send out an SOS signal from a button that was cleverly hidden on a displayed calendar. This theme was followed by many of the teams who implemented many different solutions to this problem. One example was an application where a person could enter a passphrase and their location would be sent out to the other members of the community who would be able to come to their aid. Finally, the third place team had developed an informative website about recycling and your carbon footprint. Furthermore, they developed a quiz to determine your level of impact on the environment from your carbon footprint and ways to make it smaller. The goal of responsible consumption and production is a difficult one to tackle and the creativity of the way this team aimed at solving it really blew my socks off.
There were many other teams who developed projects that could be truly life-changing, especially those that focused on the COVID-19 epidemic and how to help those in need. There was a project that was, without a doubt, created by the biggest dreamers of the hackathon. They designed a virtual community that cleaned water collected from natural resources, such as rivers and the rain, which was then supplied to crops. This community was fully sustainable with high-quality homes made out of recycled plastic and solar energy providing power. Even though this community is far into South Africa’s future, it’s inspiring to know that young people are thinking of ways to make this a reality.
Throughout all of the projects presented, it was clear to see that a common theme of community involvement and the spirit of ‘we’re all in this together’ was carried through. Even though this is a difficult time for South Africa, there was such a display of hope and creativity in this hackathon that shows that South Africa’s future employees will aim to make a difference and make the future a brighter place.