Alumni Help Local Nonprofits Through Hack For The Community

Nov 18, 2020
Mandy Arola

Hack For The Community is a biannual hackathon organized by the HCA Foundation and the Nashville Technology Council and brings together tech talent from across Middle Tennessee to help nonprofits with projects they cannot do on their own. Hack For The Community was in the final stages of planning when the pandemic hit this spring. After many discussions with the nonprofits and the hackathon’s advisors, Hack For The Community decided to go virtual.

A great hackathon not only helps local, non-profit organizations but also adds an element of competition. Winning at Hack For The Community not only earns you bragging rights for the next two years, you earn $2500 for the non-profit you’re working with.

NSS alumni are always well represented at Hack For The Community and we spoke with a few of our more recent graduates about their experience.

Leigh Rogers, Lead UI/UX Designer & Strategist - Interfaith Dental - Homepage DesignLeigh Rogers of Web Development Cohort 35 was the Lead UI/UX Designer and Strategist on a team for Interfaith Dental, a dental clinic that serves low-income and uninsured patients.Their project was to build an interactive patient intake portal so that Patient Care Coordinators can spend less time on paperwork and more time engaging with patients.

The team started working on the project around the time of the original dates of the hackathon, April 2020. This allowed them to be more intentional about understanding the Interfaith Dental’s needs and the design and development of the portal. The project originally called for an intake form and an admin portal to update the form. But even with seven months to complete the project, the team needed to scope the project into something more manageable that would give the clients something that they could use. They decided to focus on making sure the intake form met Interfaith Dental’s needs for their MVP. Leigh shares, “I think our recipe for success was actually having the time to listen to the client for their needs, and not feeling rushed to create something that otherwise wouldn't necessarily match their needs because there wasn't time for input.”

While there may be limited time to invest in a research phase of product development, don't forget about the user and the problem your product is trying to solve for them. You're not just making something based on what the client thinks they want, but on how their customers/users interact with the product directly. Whatever you develop should be based on that user's needs.

As the lead UI/UX designer, Leigh led the design process in transitioning from Microsoft Form to an interactive, mobile-first patient screening portal to gather patient data and streamline the intake process. She was also part of the product leadership team that focused on business feasibility, technical functionality, client satisfaction, and design integrity throughout the entire project. Using Figma and Miro, she also designed a user flow chart to guide the development team and created high-fidelity prototypes based on user research, developer feedback, and changing requirements.

As a graduate of our Front-end Web Designer/Developer Bootcamp, Hack For The Community was the perfect opportunity for Leigh to use her new skills as a UI/UX designer and gain more experience using those skills with a development team.

I learned how to better hand off design specs to developers. As a UX designer, showing developers how it should look isn't enough. I tried to do my best to be as specific as possible on functionality but also input types, labels, page copy, and dimensions on each distinct view. This enabled the front-end devs to avoid guesswork as they implemented my designs into code.

Leigh Rogers is looking for her first job as a UI/UX designer or front-end developer. Learn more about Leigh and connect with her on LinkedIn.

Tanner Brainard, Front-end Developer - Junior Achievement’s BizTown

Tanner Brainard served as a front-end developer for Junior Achievement’s BizTown. JA BizTown is an experiential program that teaches entrepreneurial and personal finance skills to 4th-6th graders by simulating daily business activities. To gauge the students' learning during the program, students complete pre- and post-curriculum tests which generates a lot of data. To make these assessments more useful, the team was tasked with creating a web app that would be available to teachers and students in the classroom and give them more accurate reporting in less time.

Completing a project in 36 hours is no small task, so to keep the project moving ahead, the team implemented a modified Agile environment. With regular check-ins with the client, the team could stay on track to deliver what the teachers and students of BizTown needed.

Less than a month out of bootcamp with Web Development Cohort 40, Tanner stretched his front-end development muscles. “The team was encouraging and chose tech with which I was most comfortable,” he shares. Trying to learn a new language during a hackathon is sometimes necessary, but not ideal when you’re on a very tight schedule. He also recommended that you take regular breaks during the hackathon. Those breaks will keep your mind sharp and help manage the long hours.

Even though Tanner was working with a familiar tech stack, JavaScript, React, ReactStrap, Python, and Django REST, he still learned that “Django’s ModelViewSet has built-in action for CRUD functionality.”

Tanner Brainard is looking for his first job as a developer and is most interested in working with React, Python, and Django. However, his first priority is to “find an inclusive team that creates an effective learning environment.” You can learn more about Tanner and connect with him on LinkedIn.

David Everett, Front-end Developer, Teach For America

As a floating front-end developer for the hackathon, David Everett of Web Development Cohort 40 jumped in to help the Teach For America team. Teach For America Nashville-Chattanooga works alongside the community to provide talented and committed leaders, who first serve as teachers. Teach For America needed a better way to manage their student and parent data to send out updates via mass text messages to specific groups of parents.

David built the form parents will fill out when enrolling their children in the program. “My recipe for success for my first Hackathon was just to absorb as much knowledge as possible from the more experienced developers and just stay dedicated to the work,” he shares. “I didn't sleep on Thursday night because I wanted the form to meet the requirements.” David used React, SCSS, and Bootstrap to create the form.

The hackathon gave him a great opportunity to learn, and he encourages those taking part in their first hackathon to ask for help from your teammates and be prepared to work hard.

My experience was humbling, but overall great because I feel like I was able to get some on-the-job experience while contributing to a great cause.

David Everett is looking for his first job as a front-end developer. You can learn more about David and connect with him on LinkedIn.

Trinity Terry, Back-end Tech Lead, Urban Green Lab

Trinity Terry of Web Development Cohort 38, was the Tech Lead for the back-end of Sustain Game, a game application that quizzes Urban Green Lab community event attendees on the environment and sustainability. Urban Green Lab is a local organization focused on teaching communities to live sustainably by educating teachers, neighborhood leaders, and companies who can then inspire and educate those around them.

Sustain Game makes learning about sustainability fun and is designed for adults and kids. The game includes a leaderboard and sends a follow up email after the quiz with the questions and answers so you can continue learning. The app also has an admin portal so that Urban Green Lab can create questions, build quizzes, and make a quiz active on the website for each event. They can also use quizzes across multiple events, saving them valuable set-up time. You can learn more about Sustain Game and see it in action in this video.

The end-user application was built with React.js, reactstrap, Sass, Python/Django, and deployed on Netlify. The admin portal was built with Django templates connected to the back-end and deployed on Heroku.

Planning and preparation before the hackathon began was the key to success for the Urban Green Lab team. While Trinity led the back-end, her mom, Dr. Teresa Vasquez of Web Development Cohort 21, led the front-end. “We started getting everything set up before the hack,” Trinity shares. “From the boilerplate repositories to the issue tickets to all the snacks and wine, we prepped it all. This allowed us to jump in quickly in that first hour of the hackathon, figuring out what everyone else on the team was comfortable with, and started divvying up tasks.”

When asked what advice she’d share with other NSS alumni about participating in a hackathon, Trinity exclaimed, “Just do it! You will quickly learn that overthinking can be a hindrance to greatness. It will be stressful and you might have to take a week-long nap to recover, but you will come out of it sharper. It’s a fantastic opportunity to interact with more experienced developers in a fast-paced environment.”

No matter how skilled you are, you will always find something valuable to walk away with!

Reflecting on her experience, Trinity shared, “For my first hackathon, it was an amazing experience! Definitely being able to work with my badass mom, Dr. T, was amazing. This whole experience confirmed that my mom and I make such an excellent team.”

And The Winner Is…

Hack for the Community 2020 Winning Team Featuring NSS Alumni Trinity Terry

Congratulations to the Urban Green Lab team! The team included Dr. Teresa Vasquez*, Trinity Terry*, Chiitra Tibbs, Hannah Hall*, Nick Miller, Ryan Firm, Jeremy Davis, Summer Perkey, Prafullata Sonawane*, and Ankaj Goel. (*NSS Alumni)

Planning is the key to quickly developing a great application. If we had not planned before the hackathon, we would not have accomplished all we did within those 36 hours. The time we took to prepare is really how we quickly finished the application. In the end, it’s how we won the entire hackathon. That and being a team of top-notch developers! - Trinity Terry

Congratulations to all the teams and the nonprofits! We’re already looking forward to the next Hack For The Community in 2022, hopefully in-person this time.

Topics: Student Stories, Hiring?, Community, UI/UX, Web Development