Editor’s note: Jason Hibbets, a project manager at Red Hat and the lead administrator for opensource.com, is also one of the organizers and leaders of CityCamp NC. He offers this recap of last weekend’s latest CityCamp where a 10-year-old took home two top prizes.

Winners of CityCampNC competition and event recap

It was probably the best CityCamp event we’ve hosted in Raleigh, NC. The line-up of speakers, participants, and hackathon projects all came together for the 2015 version of CityCamp NC. The team competitions were oozing with open data and tackling real challenges facing our community. But one team stood above the rest with a passion and a purpose around NC history.

The CityCamp NC 2015 event kicked off on Thursday, June 11, at HQ Raleigh. Our wonderful venue sponsor was a great place to host the first ever Taste of CityCamp and several lightning talks. The Taste of CityCamp was a new addition to our event, intending to give participants a flavor for what to expect at the unconference and at the same time, planting the seed for the hackathon on Saturday.

June 11, 2015 – Lightning Talks

We had 10 amazing speakers during the lightning talks. The line-up looked like this and was trending locally on Twitter under the #citycampNC hashtag:

  • Jedidiah Gant—Citizen Informed: Hybrid Media Infrastructure in Raleigh
  • Kim Johnson—Go Triangle and Citizen Engagement
  • Allison Warren-Barbour—Real Solutions, Transformative Change
  • Lawrence Abeyta—Open Data, Mobile, and Beacons – Oh My!
  • Zeydy Ortiz—Exploring CitySDK
  • Sarah Kahn—Engaging Women in the Tech Community
  • Alex Gibson—Mass Transit is Failing You
  • Caroline Sullivan—Open Data in County Government
  • Twyla McDermott—Citygram: From Geek Speak to Human Speak
  • Mark Headd—Keynote preview: Civic Tech: Days of Future Past

After an amazing night of 5-minute snippets of open source, open data, and open government deliciousness, many CityCampers retreated to BoxCar to relax for a while before the Friday talks and unconference.

Friday, June 12, 2015 – GIS Panel, Keynote, Unconference

The first full day of CityCamp NC 2015 was jammed packed with awesomeness. After a brief welcome and logistics, we got right into things with a GIS panel moderated by ESRI. The panelists included Twyla McDermott from the City of Charlotte, Anne Payne, GISP from Wake County, and Jim Alberque from City of Raleigh.

After the GIS panel, we heard from Zach Ambrose and Reid Serozi about NC Datapaloozaand how CityCamp NC teams are still eligible to enter the competition. Next, Marshall Burkes from Kramden Institute talked about bridging the digital divide.

The keynote presentation by Mark Headd lead us down the path of civic tech and the days of future past—a peak, sort of, into the future of civic hacking. What we learned is that what we’re doing now is the future of civic hacking. More importantly, we need to partner with our local municipalities in order to be effective.

The Grid and the Unconference

At this point of the conference, organizers hand the agenda over to the participants. We had over 20 pitches from participants that wanted to share ideas or challenges through workshops, discussions, or ideation. Things started off with “What’s a good pitch?” and lead right into the CityCamp NC pitches and voting.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in 55-minute sessions lead by participants. Notes from many of the sessions can be found on our CityCamp NC hackpad. Some of the sessions included:

  • Triangle Wiki 101 (How to use LocalWiki)
  • Intro to AppCityLife
  • Crowdsourcing disaster response
  • Agile development for government
  • Ground zero for open data
  • Intro to GitHub (aka GitHub 101)
  • Intro to Waffle.io (the tool that helped us plan CityCamp)

Saturday, June 13, Hackathon and competition

Coffee and bagels fueled CityCampers during the final day of the event. There were five projects to work on and eight teams pitched ideas that they would present later in the day. Code for America Brigades from Asheville, Durham, Greensboro, and Raleigh had projects available for attendees to work on:

  • The Government budget explorer – DemocracyApps (via Code for Asheville)
  • School navigator – Code for Durham
  • Legislative data visualization – Code for Greensboro
  • LocalWiki write-a-thon – Code for Raleigh
  • Affordable housing resources – Code for Raleigh

Three projects gained momentum, school navigator, legislative data visualization, and affordable housing resources.

Then, it was very exciting to see eight teams pitch ideas to compete for a $2,000 first place prize, $1,000 second place prize, and a $500 special prize for the best use of ESRI [geographical information systems] technology. Here’s what the line-up looked like:

  • Berniesez – Point and click transparency. We have a huge set of NC criminal case files. We propose to build a user-friendly, easy-access platform to give the common man access to important statistics on cops, judges, district attorney’s, and defense lawyers all across NC. This is the start of accountability.
  • Citisoft – Payment/cashless credit platform for local/state/federal organization that connects citizens, government organizations, and private businesses to create a connection with these entities, services, and an alternative economy that drives desired behaviors and fosters economic development.
  • Data liberators – Have a place where an open discussion can happen between citizens, companies, and government about what data is available, what’s not that should be, and the steps taken to get it open.
  • Momentum app – Is the idea for a revolutionary app so simple in its structure, yet so powerful in its purpose. It allows people to give an opinion on social issues that are important to them. It aggregates every opinion in the community and enables them to see the real statistics on how others arounds them feel about the same issue.
  • Neighbors fight back against speeders – Speeding in neighborhoods. Safety issues. Hard to control, take action, have open conversation. Today’s traffic calming data is not open.
  • New cartographers – Making it easy to read NC historic landmarks through a geo-located web service.
  • Road closure message – Develop a specification for publishing road closure information and possibly other map changes, like new roads.
  • Voluntagious – Students are force-fed volunteer opportunities. Many high school students are even required to participate to meet graduation requirements. Our mission is to change the way students perceive the act of volunteering by making it easy for them to find opportunities, via an experience they find appealing, fun, and timeworthy. To best test if we can change the way students and recent grads view community outreach and involvement, we’ll start with Duke through their director of advocacy.

Each team had five minutes to pitch and two minutes of Q&A after only a few hours to work on their ideas. Each team had great ideas to address challenges and opportunities in our community. The range of coders versus non-coders was interesting as well. A panel of judges that included Colin Campbell (News & Observer), John Gravois (ESRI), Amy Huffman (Exit Events), Chris Mathews (CityCamp NC co-chair), Dan Moore (VaporWare), and Lauren Ohnesorge (Triangle Business Journal).

The runner-up was Voluntagious. They presented a good idea to entice more students to volunteer in our community. With only a few hours, they did customer research and came up with a plan on how to engage and connect students with volunteer opportunities.

The winner, of both the first place prize and best use of ESRI technology was New Cartographers. 10-year old Gavin Clark is interested in NC history and loves the NC historical landmarks, when he can read them from the back seat of his parents car. Gavin created an app to locate and display historic landmarks and create walking paths to connect them. [Lauren Ohnesorge of Triangle Business Journal wrote a story about the winner.].

And that was it. Two and half days of open government awesomeness came to a prompt end, but a happy one. Wake County launched their open data portal. And that helped to make this year a milestone. 250 people registered for the event, five Code for America Brigades from NC participated, and progress was made. Amazing speakers, great participation, and innovative ideas. I was beaming from ear-to-ear. Seeing CityCampers come together to and make progress to improve our community is very fulfilling.

Thanks to all of our sponsors and attendees for making the 2015 CityCamp NC a successful event. Until next year!

(Note: This blog was originally published at: http://citycampnc.org/blog/)