In the rush of high school choice in Philadelphia, there is room for disruption.
John Young, a 7th grade math teacher at the Young Scholars Charter School, came to the latest local iteration of the global Random Hacks of Kindness with a paper packet that is handed to his students each year, filled with information on the dozens of the city’s public schools — selective, citywide and neighborhood — and how to apply.
“Most don’t look until the end of the year,” Young said. “And by then, it’s too late.”
That’s how MyHighSchoolGuide.com first came together, collecting four interested developers and winning out the third version of the twice yearly hackathon that was launched to focus on global sustainability issues but has taken a local bent in Philadelphia — something of a source of pride for some recurrent attendees at the weekend event held at Drexel University.
Though still a little buggy, if you visit MyHighSchoolGuide.com, users can see how their academic standards impact their school choice. Only proficient in math? Missed too many school days? Grades not up to snuff? Well, you will quickly see that many selective schools won’t even let you apply.
Young says he hopes to add charter schools and perhaps private schools too, maybe including Catholic, depending on the shakeup of the School District and any changes at the Archdiocese. Below, watch Young and team, including Azavea developer Adam Hinz, present the project to those in attendance.
- FIRST PLACE: MyHighSchoolGuide — A school choice dashboard and search tool
- SECOND PLACE: LGBTRights.me — Led by Philadelphia Gay News Editor Sarah Blazucki and first built at the Philly Tech Week ‘News’ Hackathon, this project added more data, an RSS feed, a backend admin tool and more to a visualization of LGBT and anti-discrimination legislation by state and municipality.
- THIRD PLACE: PeopleMigrate.com — Led by an immigration attorney, the site is a search tool for two different communities it hopes to build: a vetted, Q&A resource around immigration law and a Wiki on common terms and concepts.
- MetaRHOK: Mjumbe Poe and Pam Selles developed a cleaner problem definition for the RHOK website and concept for focusing hackathon projects elsewhere.
- Yo! Philly Votes: Voter advocate Faye Anderson led a team that built an aggregator of polling place complaints and incidents for the city. See the splash page here.
- Change for a $5: Awesome Foundation meets Kickstarter meets Philly STAKE, in which people join up for a $5 monthly membership, the proceeds of which are used for small, quarterly grants to charitable organizations. Though the idea was strong, the concept failed to get to get a platform lift and organizers are seeking those interested in participating.
- Legislator social media dashboard: A team came short of its goal of visualizing the common words from tweets and Facebook messages from city legislators and so decided not to present.
Organizers, which, full disclosure, included this reporter as a judge, noted that their voting were largely based on the amount of work done in the weekend, the sustainability of the project and its likely impact.
This RHOK was smaller, if more local, than the past two — more than 30 participants — and noticeably no presence from Random Hacks organizers, which include consultant firm Second Muse. Local organizer Mike Brennan, who has since come on fulltime with RHOK, handed off the organization to another Drexel computer science student Nathan Vecchiarelli.
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