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Here’s a look at 26 intriguing, inventive projects from the Baltimore Hackathon

The participants aimed to use tech to improve the city and brought it to new frontiers.

Allen Song, Kariz Marcel and Drew Swinburne won the civic tech category at the 2017 Baltimore Hackathon. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Holding a giant check for $2,500, Kariz Marcel was overwhelmed.
The teacher/music producer has been teaching financial literacy with hip-hop for the last six years. Teaming with Drew Swinburne and Allen Song, he spent the weekend taking it digital. In Math + Music = Literacy, students answer math questions. Answer correctly, and they get access to another part of a song, such as a beat, instruments and rhymes. He’s seen funding cuts at schools lead to less money for programs like his.
“I was thinking, what can we do to bridge that gap so the schools can afford enrichment programs?” he said.
The project won the civic track at last weekend’s Baltimore Hackathon and also notched a third place finish in the software category. It was one of more than 25 projects that came out of the weekend event. The teams spread out to work at Impact Hub. Open Works also offered space for teams working in the hardware category.
More than $12,000 in prize money was doled out Sunday. Judges for the event included Aisha DaCosta of I Am O’Kah, Fearless President Delali Dzirasa and Allovue CTO Ted O’Meara.
Here’s a look at what the teams were up to:

They tapped virtual and augmented reality.

  • History Fl!pClaire Smith and Bella Palumbi created a new kind of souvenir for Fort McHenry. A 3D printed replica of the Fort, with an app that opens up new ways to experience the historic landmark, including a giant American flag with augmented reality. (2nd place for Hardware)
  • Demoing Neon Defender (photo by Stephen Babcock)Neon Defender: The trio of Sean Madigan, Justus Eapen and Zachariah Hale created a game that can be played with virtual reality and at the keyboard. While one player sits at the keyboard and controls a cannon and has defenses. The other is in virtual reality, able to dodge enemy fire and shoot back. (2nd place in Software)

Some worked on voice control.

  • Maryland Transit Alexa Skill: With BaltimoreLink set to launch next month, Jamie Arribas Starkey-El looked to bring voice recognition to MTA data. The program allows users to ask Alexa about schedules and other info.
  • Alexa Stop Snooping: After reading about the CIA requesting Alexa data from Amazon, Michael Warren and Griffin Yourick created a way to use the Echo so it doesn’t connect to the network.

They used civic data, and took on the city’s issues.

  • Infest: Data released about restaurants closed due to health violations is available in a chart, but not in Open Baltimore. Justin Overfelt created an application to make the data more accessible for future civic hackers.
  • LeafTrack: Medical marijuana is coming to Maryland any day now. Team members including Quierra Wells, Ethan and Durul Dalkanat created an app to connect patients, growers and clinics. It provides info on where the facilities are located, and check on things like prices and product. (Third place in Civic)
  • Charm City Water Biller: Ryan Hall looked to automate the process of paying a water bill. He created a system that emails water bill to a customer when it gets posted.
  • Agency Portal: Looking to bring paper-based processes at Baltimore’s Department of General Service online, Babila Lima and Brian Andress created a system to allow for submission and approval of training requests.
  • ParkMore: Signs that tell you when you can and can’t park somewhere are confusing. Donnie Propst, Jeremy Ruroede and M. Alex Boyd created an app that sends parking restriction info based on location.
  • Presenting Counted (photo by Stephen Babcock)Counted: After hearing a friend’s story inside the city’s homeless shelters and temporary housing, the team of Luke Samuels, Michael Scott-Nelson and Samudra Haque created a system of sensors that can tell if a bed is occupied. It’s called BOSS. Those looking to find beds can text in to see what’s available. (1st place in hardware, 2nd place in Civic).
  • CaseReminder Many defendants don’t show up to court because they aren’t properly served. Matthew Stubenberg and Michael An created a program that scans court data and sends postcards to residents when their court dates are approaching. It’s live. (Audience choice winner)

They brought tech to the farm …

  • MoBull: Cattle ranch owner Garrett Bladow teamed with developers including Kate Bladow, A.J. Costa and Brian Kemper to create an app that allows ranchers to upload data about livestock and provides recommendations on breeding and yields. (Winner in Software)

… and to space.

  • The Big Moon Dig/Catepillar: Laying the groundwork for space travel, Tom Riley built a model of an inflatable moon habitat. And it moves.

They made technology more accessible.

  • White Stick: This team is looking to help visually impaired people experience the web just like those who see. The program utilizes Google Vision API to create content that’s accessible where it was previously lacking. Team members included Peter Borges, Harry Respass, Ethan Burrow Fairweather, Christopher Buzby and Samuel Westenberger.

Others made music.

  • beatHacker: Socket SynthJonathan Prozzi wants to create new types of instruments that can be played by multiple people. Using the Web Audio API, he created a backend to send and receive synthesizer data.
  • The Music Thing: This program brings all parts of a musical experience to the digital realm. Using their hands, a conductor can control tempo, a DJ can scratch a record and a soloist can dazzle — with visualization. Team members included Chris Uehlinger and Marjorie Roswell.

They built new stuff for bikes.

  • LumiWay: Seeking to make bikes safer, Derek Fields and Alison MacMullan created a backpack with LEDs. Not only does it provide light, it also has a turn signal. (Third place for Hardware)
  • Bike Trackr: To track the usage of bike paths in Baltimore, Mark Huson created a motion-sensing device that can connect to the internet and provide real-time data. He said it would also be cheaper than what’s currently available.

They found new ways to tap into the city.

  • Baltimore POI: The team of Jamie Gaskins, Andrei Koenig and Johann Liang created an app that uses location data to show points of interest in a person’s general vicinity. It tends toward points of civic interest (which are low- or no-cost), like landmarks, libraries and parks.
  • GuiderX: This app helps travelers find tour guides based on preferences. Omofolahanmi Owoyemi, Sven Waweru and Mary Kariuki. (NexMo winner)
  • Event Lens: A team from Baltimore startup Yet Analytics spent the weekend working with data from Open Baltimore, Twitter, IBM’s Watson and Google geo to create a program that measures how people feel about events. Whether it’s joy or disgust, users can see how people are reacting in real-time.

They came up with new ways to use familiar tech

  • Reddit SMS is a web app that monitors subreddits and sends texts about a specific subreddit when there is an update. (NexMo winner)
  • Keychain Printer: Timothy Childers wanted to keep the passwords in his Mac keychain on paper, so he created a system that automates printing.
  • Atari Pi: This team looked to put arcade games on small screens by creating an emulator for Atari 2600 and other arcade games.

And there was a fountain.

  • Dance Pad Controlled Laminar Fountain: A fountain that has parallel streams of water already offers a lot of options, like changing colors. The team of Jamie O’Marr, Paul Grodt, Robert Cicconetti and Bradford Kuhn built a system that can do that and added a dance pad to control it.

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