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June coding weekend will aim to help Tampa homeless through technology


A June event will aim to benefit Tampa’s homeless population through computer coding.

The June 3rd through 5th weekend-long hack-a-thon, hosted by Hillsborough County annually in conjunction with the National Day of Civic Hacking, has been rebranded as a ‘code-a-palooza’ for 2016. It will take place at Crossover Church, 1235 E. Fowler Ave. in Tampa, a larger venue than initially planned. 

The event will be sponsored by Peak 10  an IT and cloud storage services company that is is an anchor member of the Tampa Innovation Alliance, a group working to redefine the area surrounding the University of South Florida in northeast Hillsborough County.

Tampa Innovation Alliance board members set out to put on a traditional weekend hack-a-thon event, but with the goal of creating “an element that will stretch out longer than just the weekend, and actually solve a real-world problem,” explains Alliance executive director Mark Sharpe.

A request by the Alliance to Hillsborough County for data led to a counter-request: solve a problem for us. County or government-sponsored hack-a-thons often have a civil services component, and for the June ‘code-a-palooza,’ the focus is on the homeless population in the Tampa Bay region.

“They’ve got social service organizations helping them to manage this homeless problem, which the county is responsible for, but they don’t have tracking devices or an application which can effectively connect the homeless person -- many of whom do have smartphones -- with the services,” Sharpe explains.

Using county-provided data, coders and creative thinkers will work together to bridge the gap between members of the homeless population and the service organizations that aim to connect with them.

By creating an application that enhances on or is compatible with the county’s existing software, Sharpe hopes to see coding teams develop something that can "maybe even have a market application.”

“There are severe homeless problems in other cities,” Sharpe says, “like Denver, Colorado,” with whom the Alliance has partnered for the 10-10-10 conference.

“We’re still kind of exploring -- we don’t have it all figured out -- but we’re going to be encouraging people who have coding skills, or who can solve problems, to join in at ‘code-a-palooza’ in June,” Sharpe says.

Coding skills are not required to participate.

A winner of the weekend event will be announced on the final day of the hack-a-thon, but the Alliance hopes to see concepts worked on by the teams continue to grow, Sharpe says. Peak 10 will allow interested coders to use the company’s cloud data system for work throughout the summer and fall, and Alliance partners such as University Mall may facilitate projects by providing meeting space.

“We hope the winner might have the opportunity to sell their application, or have it used by the county,” Sharpe says.

To learn more about the June ‘code-a-palooza’ event, visit the Tampa Innovation Alliance website.

Read more articles by Justine Benstead.

Justine Benstead is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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