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9 impact models built at GiveBackHack Baltimore to spread art, music and support for refugees

Meet the winning team from P.A.T.C.H., plus other projects built in a weekend that could help local neighborhoods and community groups.

Smithsonian visitors demoing the Aira tech for the first time. (Courtesy photo)

A recent hackathon featured plenty of experimenting with technology such as voice recognition and parts of old electronics repurposed for something new — but in this case, the solutions had a goal of helping Baltimoreans.

GiveBackHack arrived in the city from Feb. 1 to 3, making Baltimore the fifth host since being founded in Columbus, Ohio. (It popped over to Philly in October 2017.) The event aims to build entrepreneurial ideas that focus on both social impact and business potential.

The event drew more than 100 to Allovue’s offices in Remington, including about 95 participants as well as an eight-member organizing team, mentors and judges from around the city. During the weekend, 20 youth participants in Girls Who Code also got their first hackathon experience.

Along with building tech, the teams were involved in the following activities throughout the weekend:

  • Talking to and surveying would-be users to validate ideas
  • Building models that balance social impact, business and community
  • Considering partnerships that can help continue a venture beyond one weekend. “Your ideas should not stop tonight. This is the beginning of that vision that you signed up for when you joined giveback hack,” GiveBackHack Founder Suzy Bureau told the participants just before final pitches got underway.

Here’s a look at what the teams pitched to close out the event:

1st Place: P.A.T.C.H.

P.A.T.C.H. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

P.A.T.C.H. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

The project, short for Passing Art Through Children’s Hands, won first prize and $2,000. The team is looking to bring art-based programs in which students are learning from near-peer mentors — primarily artists who live in the communities they serve. The team plans to offer an enrichment for summer programs and after-school programs, as well as professional development.

Team members included Levern Nichols Jr, Briah Neale, Eyasu Berg, Tonee Lawson, Sharmeda McCready and Greg Hsieh. The winning package also included mentorship, 10-day passes to Spark Baltimore and five seats to Montgomery County’s Code Partners.

2nd Place: Panifold

Team Panifold shows their work. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Team Panifold shows their work. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

A team developing a portable steel pan to play in a steel drum orchestra won second place, and funding to the tune of $1,000. Panifold team members didn’t have a keyboard at the beginning of the weekend, so they bought one off Craigslist and hacked the parts together to create the initial prototype, dubbed “Project Taco.” With the digital steel pan, the idea is to create a product that lightweight, collapsable and affordable so that students who participate in youth steel bands can also have an instrument to take home and practice.

Team members included Ben Garrison, Alex Levy, Mark Brick and Brooke Savage.

3rd Place: Refugee Connections

Team Refugee Connections. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Team Refugee Connections. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Taking third place was an effort seeking to provide volunteer matching for organizations serving refugees. It provides a place for volunteers to find organizations and volunteer roles that fit their interests, as well as training that will bring volunteers up to speed.

Taking home three sketch licenses to move forward was the team of Amina Touma, Christie Smith, Zach Diehl, Simon Kiflay, Tony Flores and Daniela Gonzalez.

Honorable Mention: The Refugee Youth Film Festival

Refugee Youth Film Festival (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Refugee Youth Film Festival (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

A team that worked to create a new film festival featuring films created by refugee youth picked up honorable mention from judges. With a mix of instruction and filming, the festival would be preceded by a 12-week program.

Along with providing filmmaking skills, it creates a platform for youth to reclaim the narrative of the refugee experience, according to team members Anand Macherla, Brandon Desiderio and Kristen Nixon.

The two teams seeking to help refugee communities collaborated and shared resources during the weekend. It could lead to further partnerships down the road, organizers said.

Crowd Favorite: Parity Homes

The Parity Homes team. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

The Parity Homes team. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

The venture is seeking to address disparities in homeownership in communities by acquiring properties and offering both affordable housing as well as a sense of belonging. At GiveBackHack, the team put together what founder Bree Jones called the “operating system” for the effort.

The team included Velda Day, Lucas Feuser, Mei Miles, Lizzy Unger, Micky Wolf, Mike Raykher, Aaron Rice, Ashley Molese, Aidan McConnell and Jacob Medina.


These other teams also participated:

Spare: Change for Charity

A team created an app that allows users to donate spare change to the charity of their choice. Looking to make charitable giving more convenient and collaborative, the app allows users to choose a nonprofit, and shows the impact of a donation. The team includes Ivan Liao, Kesete, Matthew Lowinger, Merlin Patterson, Sebastian Cabrejos and Turi Scilipoti.


A team utilizing voice recognition to help create better meetings. People talk unequal times during meetings, and many don’t feel like they are heard. Using voice technology to gather data on who is talking, the team said the tool can help promote inclusivity in the workplace. Team members included Jamie Norwood, Chelsea Coston, Max Kaplan and Anders Lindgren.

Sync the City

The team is creating a platform to break down silos between the groups doing impact work in Baltimore. The goal is to provide information that can help spread knowledge of work already being done and connections that could lead to new partnerships. Team members included Karina Mandell, Vincent Escobedo, Deepak Mukkara, Taryn Wong, Cara, Jordyn Saltzman and Eli Sherman.


The venture is looking to bring the growing of carrots and other root vegetables to an indoor farming model. Working with farmers, Rooted would be involved both in building technology and getting the vegetables to market. The team included Lijo Panghat, Kara Citarella and Kat Martineau.


Companies: Parity

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