Hackathon tackles homelessness

24 hour competition to provide potential solutions for Edinburgh’s homeless services hailed a success

Date posted

16 February 2017

08:07

Last updated

16 February 2017

Students from Edinburgh Napier University have showcased their creative skills at a 24 hour event aimed at tackling homelessness in the city.

Co-hosted by homeless charity Cyrenians, IBM, Edinburgh Napier’s Bright Red Triangle and Scottish Institute for Enterprise, the Hackathon event invited teams to come up with ideas for an app that would help connect homeless services throughout Edinburgh.

A total of 20 students working in teams of four had 24 hours to come up with their idea before presenting their final concepts in front of a judging panel.

The teams were supported in their efforts by volunteers from Cyrenians and other charities who were present to share their insight into homelessness in Edinburgh. Representatives from technology giant IBM were also on-board to answer questions alongside showcasing its IBM Watson supercomputer; an artificially intelligent computer system capable of answering questions in natural language.

The winning team – consisting of students Bert Robberechts, Clement Luciani, King Him Fung and Callum Barclay – were praised for their idea of creating a website which gathered charities’ social posts and sorted them according to subject. This is in an effort to make it easier for potential supporters to tap into volunteering and campaigning opportunities.

However, the strength of ideas on show throughout the event was so strong that all four teams have now been given the opportunity to develop their ideas further, either with Cyrenians or with the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisation’s (SCVO) One Digital team.




Nick Fannin, head of Bright Red Triangle at Edinburgh Napier University, said: “The Homeless Hack was a fantastic success exceeding all our expectations.  In a complex and uncertain environment we saw real commitment from the students, and terrific interaction with all the partner organisations resulting in four ideas, all with the potential to be taken forward.”

Ewan Aitken, Cyrenians chief executive, said: “The Hackathon’s been an incredible adventure for me.  The teams have shone new light on what I have the privilege to work with every day. The students asked hard questions about what appears to be an intractable problem, but if we can invent the Internet and put someone on the moon, surely we can find a solution to this issue as well.”

Ann Davidson, SIE Innovation & Enterprise programme director, said: “At the Hackathon we wanted students to think “people first” then apps, so they were given the time to walk in other people’s shoes and understand the real issues. There were some great ideas emerging with the potential to make a difference and all of the participants left a little bit wiser for having taken part.”

The 24 hour Hackathon also involved representatives from a number of charities who dropped in throughout the day to share their knowledge and expertise. They were: Move On Scotland, The Rock Trust, Streetwork, Fresh Start and Grassmarket Community Project.

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