Code Michigan Inspires Creative Apps and Generosity
By Alida Moore
Question: What do you get when you put a bunch of brilliant coders in a room for a weekend, fueled by party platters, soft drinks, and passion for using data for public good?
On October 6th through October 9th, Code Michigan brought together coders and hackers of all backgrounds, provided them with access to Michigan’s transportation, health, and other types of government data, and let them run wild, dev-style, creating apps for civic good. A few Socrata team members ventured out to Michigan to witness the brilliance of the attendees firsthand.
Ian Kalin, Socrata’s Director of Open Data and keynote speaker for the event, was struck by the passion for positive change he encountered. “I was very impressed to see the level of civic innovation and ownership from the hackathon participants,” Kalin said afterward. He continued, “Most of the coders I spoke to had never been to a hackathon before and were very proud to share how their products were going to improve their city and many others.”
The diverse group of attendees – the oldest hacker was 78 and the youngest was 11 – brought their A games to the event, partially due to the prize money up for grabs. A $20,000 grand prize was would go to the app that showed the most viability. $5,000 was earmarked for the crowd favorite and the best idea would receive $1,000.
First place went to MiMaps, a mapping app that allows users to navigate Michigan’s outdoor attractions.
The second place winner (and crowd favorite winner) went to three high school students and their teacher for an app called MiLegi, which helps users learn more about bills and legislation within the State.
The prize for the best idea went to a group of guys from a small tech startup called Loveland Technologies. Their app, LoveTax, simplifies the process of paying property taxes in Detroit, allowing users to find their parcel of land on a map and, with the click of a button, pay their taxes. LoveTax also enables users to pay property taxes owed by other people, including family members.
Chris Metcalf, Director of Platforms for Socrata, was excited by the level of talent he observed at the event. “Traveling home for the API Craft Conference and the Code Michigan hackathon have shown me the true depth of talent and enthusiasm there is here in Detroit. There are a lot of smart, driven, and creative people here, working together to make a better future for a city they truly love, and that’s a powerful force.”
Code Michigan also managed to do some immediate good for the world. At the end of the weekend, there was quite a bit of food leftover. Not wanting anything to go to waste, the group found shelters that accept catered food and stuffed four kitchens completely full. Jesse Romine, Socrata account executive, helped parcel out the excess food. “We also handed out sandwiches on the street to hungry families near a park where people live,” Romine told us afterward. He continued, “The experience offered good perspective for everyone involved.”