Swarthmore College Department of Computer Science

Swarthmore Students Win Tri-Co Hackathon

January 23-25, 2015, Haverford College: Swarthmore students Sedinam Worlanyo ('17), Razi Shaban ('16), and Amy Han ('17) competed in and won the Tri-Co Hackathon, a 48-hour hackathon open to all Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore students. The goal of this hackathon was to build apps "to address a social or environmental problem, within the Tri-Co community, the greater Philadelphia region, or beyond". The Swarthmore team created Reportit, an app to strengthen the voices of people within communities (see their detailed description below).

tricohack team picture

Reportit is a web app that helps citizens communicate directly with people in power. It utilizes the power of the crowd to give citizens and their communities a stronger, more public voice.

We chose to make a Web app because of its broad accessibility. Not everyone has a cell phone, but with initiatives like Internet.org, internet access is quickly becoming a global reality. To allow for technological variation, users can submit reports online, via smartphone, or by SMS text messaging. The online platform allows people to report breakdowns in infrastructure and public services, information on disaster relief, corruption, and other issues. All submitted complaints are categorized and mapped using the Google Maps API so that people can easily see what problems are common in their city or region, even if their country does not have a widely used address system. This allows people to see what kinds of services are needed in the region and how they can help, as well as to help them hold their public officials accountable. ReportIt screenshot

We offer an interactive administrator dashboard to help officials see what problems are trending in their region and to help them communicate directly with citizens. There is also a community user dashboard to enable community members to communicate with officials and each other and to further allow easy mobilization to solve problems.

Building ReportIt was a ton of fun. We learned a tremendous amount about program design and teamwork over the course of the two days, even though none of us had any prior experience with Web development. This allowed us to enter the Hackathon with pretty low expectations, hoping only for an opportunity to learn and have some fun. In particularly stressful moments, we were able to keep each other sane, and we learned how to ask critical questions at the right times. It was especially rewarding to see how computer science can be a powerful tool in the arsenal of the social or environmental activist.

philly.com article about the Tri-Co Hackathon