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Monday, Oct 20, 2014
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Computer gurus to join Tampa’s ‘civic day of hacking’ May 31

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— Combine computer hackers and local transportation data.

Don’t think credit card, or national security breach. Think civic innovation using technology, said Lindsey Kimball, Hillsborough County Economic Development director. Think collaboration, new tech spin-offs, mentoring.

Some of Hillsborough County’s brightest tech gurus are expected to converge for a “civic day of hacking,” on May 31 and June 1 at the ITT Tech campus, 4809 Memorial Highway Tampa. Hackers can still sign up to participate by going to hackforchange.org/tampa.

There for 32 hours, hackers are challenged with devising a software application that will benefit both county residents and businesses. This year’s challenge involves using data from the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority and Carvoyant, an Odessa company that produces a plug-in car device to which software developers can attach their apps.

Renz Kuipers, chief operating officer for Carvoyant, said his company product, using those software apps, allows a driver to access and transmit data involving other aspects of life, from sending information to a car repair shop, to controlling a home thermostat or automatically computing business travel expenses. Tech geeks participating in the hack-a-thon can use Carvoyant to connect the software they create, he said.

This is the second year the county has hosted a hack-a-thon. Last year, the hackers — experts at programming and solving problems with a computer — came up with a cell phone app homeless shelters can use to quickly register guests, said hacker and area coordinator Tyler Richardson.

This year, the teams will look for projects involving the transportation data. For example, Kimball said, they might come up with an application to compare the cost of driving a car in current traffic conditions to taking public transit, or an app to help bus riders locate the next and closest bus going to their destination.

The local hack-a-thon, the brainchild of County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, is an effort to promote civic innovation and idea-sharing and possibly form some business partnerships, Kimball said.

Already, last year’s effort has spawned mentors for student participants from ITT Tech and produced dialogue between local experts and entrepreneurs, Richardson said.

He said he is hoping this year’s event will draw at least 100 participants. Last year, about 75 people participated in the hack-a-thon and 15 of them stayed for the entire time to create the final work.

Participants can form their own teams or sign up as an individual and join a team, Kimball said.

The challenge takes place in conjunction with National Day of Civic Hacking. The very first National Day of Civic Hacking in 2013 drew 11,000 people representing government, businesses, nonprofits, technologists and entrepreneurs taking part in 95 simultaneous events across 83 cities, according to title sponsor Intel.

“Hundreds of innovative civic projects emerged from these coordinated efforts aimed at building a more transparent, accessible government, while seeding and growing communities of innovation across the nation,” Intel reports.

“Last year, it was a lot of fun, just all the energy in the room,” Kimball said. “Some of the folks were up all night working on their concept. The energy is palpable in the room.”

yhammett@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7127

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