RHoK Hartford: A Participant’s Perspective

RHoK Hartford

RHoK Hartford survivors and prizes on Day 2

Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) #3 Hartford, held at Trinity College, with over 30 participants on June 4th and 5th 2011, drew participants from New York City to Rhode Island. Jesse Aboh from St John’s university, Queens NY, shares his experience  in a guest blog post:

On Friday the 3rd of June  the HFOSS group (Jesse Aboh, Vincent Gaviria, and Geri Stoykova, along with faculty member Bonnie MacKellar) from St John’s University traveled to Trinity College in Hartford for the weekend’s Random Hacks of Kindness event. We started the weekend with a rigorous 4 hours drive to Hartford in heavy traffic. We quickly mellowed out  though, with the friendly welcome from the Trinity students. The next day, we began the morning with a calm early breakfast, but nothing really would have prepared us for the hectic afternoon ahead.

The event started with introductory talks by Trishan de Lanerolle, the Project Director for HFOSS, and Prof. Ralph Morelli, who started the entire HFOSS project. Then, a group of projects that we could work on was described.  There were a couple of AppInventor projects aimed at a humanitarian group based in Haiti (ACDI/VOCA), and a number of other projects. John Reilly from Google-NY described the FirstResponder project, which is what we have been working on. He was on a video feed. He explained his proposed project  in detail, and he had a firefighter hat! The AppInventor projects seemed to attract most people, probably because everyone likes to try something new. Trishan and Ralph also talked about their current projects.

After the propositions, teams were selected based on what project each individual wanted to work on. At first we thought just us 3 would be working on FirstResponder, but then we suddenly acquired 4 more people.  So,  we divided into two subgroups: the Bluetooth based tracking system and the Accelerometer Firefighter project. We made some rearrangements and divided up; Geri was drafted to the Accelerometer project as she already had some knowledge of it and had previously did a presentation on it in St. John’s. Some Trinity Students were added to the project namely, Alex, Vlad, and Chris. I and Vinnie (Vincent) got a new member named Bo, who was already very familiar with android development and was currently doing project that involved image processing.

We had frequent voice chat with John Reilly while working. Trishan always had a camera attached to a laptop, which he used to record video for the live feeds that were being pushed out to other RHoK sites worldwide.

Hairs were pulled, eyes were strained, although stomachs’ were always kept at bay by the random announcements from Trishan that food was here. I often thought that the food was only a distraction and nothing more, however that didn’t stop me from being the first one at the food table, which can be evident in the photos. Our spotty  progress kept a bitter taste in our mouths for the rest of the day, but not the rest of the night. Saturday Night was an engaging party at the Trinity Student’s suite that cleared out minds,  all thanks to Alex and Megan for the wonderful relief.

Sunday (5th June) started a little late, but with huge progress. The flow-cycle for my team was: Vincent is dauntlessly typing away uttering the words “…Yesss…” occasionally, then moments later “nooo…” then I occasionally edit a code and then Vincent continues uttering “Yesss…” and then moments later “nooo…” and then Bo finds a solution and then we all fist pound and Vincent continues “Yesss…”

I remember my team climbing each obstacle one tiny step after another and each individual helped making that next tiny step and Ralph was the guy at the top of the mountain that had his right hand out to help us make the final step. Did I mention that on Saturday, a lot of us had watery eyes of disappointment? Well Sunday those watery eyes of disappointment turned into watery eyes of contentment. A few minutes before the presentation most teams were done with everything including a PowerPoint presentation slides. Of course we were all trying to add extra features to our project at the last minute.

When it was time to present everyone had something to show that they were proud of.  One group presented a People Finder Upload Tool that helps locate people who are missing because of a disaster. This group collaborated with another group in Switzerland to add uploading capabilities to the tool. Another group presented the Commodity Tracker project, which helps to track food prices in different areas, thus helping the government and ACDI/VOCA plan food assistance. My group presented the Bluetooth based tracking system that activates when an alert comes in. The mounted device on the fire truck automatically starts scanning for nearby Bluetooth enabled devices, and sends this information via SMS message to the server. Since firefighters would be carrying phones with Bluetooth, this allows the server to track which firefighters have arrived and been placed on a truck. The next group presented the Accelerometer Firefighter Project, which is basically a low cost solution to alert if firefighters are immobile during a response, using their handheld phones accelerometer. Another group presented the Rain Check application, which has a funny name (and a cute logo) and which allows rainfall statistics to be collected and added to a database.  My team won one of the first place prizes, and the Commodity Tracker group won the other first place prize.

The reception was kind of great and sad; we weren’t going to see some of the people for 7 weeks. For the Trinity students, the reception wasn’t enough, we ended this weekend at The Counter in West Hartford, were we each ordered at least 1/3 pound burger, although some few shared one accompanied with appetizers and literally huge deserts. To sum up this weekend in a few words would be impossible, but to sum up the feeling after this weekend would be “superawesomeomgwhenwillwegoback?

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