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Monday, November 18, 2013

Govathon II: Civic hackers come back to City Hall for more techno troubleshooting

Computer programmers at City Halls second Govathon work on technological solutions for the city's problems.
  • David Schick
  • Computer programmers at City Hall's second Govathon work on high-tech solutions for Atlanta's age-old problems.

For 24 hours this weekend, an army of programmers, designers, and students took over City Hall for the second time in nine months for Govathon. The 24-hour City Hall-sponsored hackathon brings together Atlanta's tech-savvy set and tasks them with finding modern solutions to the city's woes.

Representatives from City Hall, Atlanta Public Schools, and the Atlanta Police Department teamed up with Start Up Atlanta to challenge code monkeys, computer programmers and app-developers to find ways to make the city's mounds of data more accessible and helpful to citizens and bureaucrats.

About 100 digital gurus packed the Atlanta City Council's old chambers for round two of modernizing the government. Late on Friday night, city officials presented their wishlist to the attendees - they included a pension benefits calculator, a text-message system to remind residents about trash pickups, GPS tracking for your child's school bus, and a crime prediction app. The participants then split into teams and, fueled by Chick-fil-A, Doritos, Cheetos, sodas and plenty of sweets, shared ideas.



After working together throughout the night, 22 teams of sleep-deprived techies then had three minutes each to present their ideas to a panel of judges. The panel chose three top winners and several honorable mentions.

The winners and more pictures after the jump...

1st place - Atlanta Budget Explorer, website that turns the city budget into a query tool and game.
Team members: Jon Keltz, Robert Crocker, Conor Sen, Jarod Apperson, Bob Nguyen, Khia Jackson

2nd place - Municiplanner, website that provides information (where to go and how to get there) on civic-focused events.
Team members: Matt Drake, Alex Oxford, Carson Britt

3rd place - VisAtlanta, an interactive map populated by census data.
Team members: Stan Li, Qian Xie, Fengbo Li, Zhengyang Shen, Shan Li

Honorable mentions included:
"Atlanta just go ahead and implement this" prize
Find My City Council Member, type in your address and find out who represents you.
311 SMS, a text-based system for city customer service questions.

"Great potential" prize
Mobile DL, a mobile app for your driver's license
Airport Parking Spot Tracker, an app for helping you identify available parking spaces at Hartsfield Jackson.

The all-night event is more than just a feelgood exercise. The team that won second place at the last Govathon created a program to help residents and visitors find an Atlanta park by location and specific amenity. Today, Park Find is a fully active website where you can search the city's 352 greenspaces and filter for picnic tables, tennis courts, dog parks and many other services.

"There's more and more momentum behind Govathon, but the city wants to take time to finish and make public apps as quickly as possible," said Terry Allen, one of Govathon's co-founders.

The first and third place teams from the inaugural event - a police blotter app and pay-by-phone parking app - are still around, but might require a little more bureaucracy than just building a website.

"Sometimes it's not about finishing and completing," said Allen. "Sometimes it's about just showing the world what could be."

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