Students design community engagement projects at ’Deis Hacks
Brandeis MakerLab hosted a 24-hour competition inspired by last year’s Hackathon.
Partnering with the Brandeis University International Business School, the Brandeis MakerLab held its annual ’Deis Hacks, a 24-hour innovative event during which students came together and competed to design the best community projects, the weekend of Jan. 26. “An evolution of the Printathon and Codestellation hack-events with a community engagement twist,” ’Deis Hacks 2019 expanded on last spring’s Hackathon, which focused on a “Social Design Challenge on Disequity,” according to the event description. Instead of working for a single challenge, each team of University students chose a design challenge to focus on from Waltham’s nonprofit and social enterprise organizations. According to the description, “this event’s theme will fuse design thinking, digital fabrication [and] social impact to work on real world solutions for non-profit companies.”
The event started Saturday at 9 a.m. After hackers arrived and the teams were formed in the opening ceremonies, local leaders, such as the mayor of Waltham, gave a talk “on topics ranging from technical tools and workflows to ethical and policy implications of emerging technologies,” according to the event website. From 8 p.m. on Saturday to 8 a.m. on Sunday, the hackers developed their projects.
One team tried to merge nonprofits and businesses in their project for the Waltham Chamber of Commerce, while another developed a “Community Matching Portal: A New Way to Donate” for the Community Day Center of Waltham. Students who worked with Waltham Partnership for Youth tried to come up with solutions for transportation challenges of Waltham through Waltham Transport Hub. After hours of work, students pitched their ideas at 1 p.m. on Sunday. The Land’s Sake team came in third place, while the Waltham Transport Hub for Waltham Partnership for Youth team came in second and the Marketing with Websites, Posters and Calendars for The Leland Home team came in first. The Imphackting for Waltham Partnership for Youth Team received the audience award.
Ian Roy ’05, who organized the event with his colleagues, is the director for research technology and innovation for the University Library, the founding head of the Brandeis MakerLab and an adjunct professor at the International Business School. He explained in an interview with the Justice that the Brandeis MakerLab partnered with IBS by working with students from Prof. Gene Allen Miller’s (IBS) class — Field Projects: Consulting in Social Innovation Impact — who were placed on the boards of Waltham nonprofits for a year.
“They spent all spring semester working with the companies learning their challenges,” Roy said. He added that they devised a “matching activity to figure out which students could work with which companies.”
He continued, “When you have a career in design you’re going to get clients and you’re gonna have to work in a team — play a business role, play a technical role, play a science role, [a] human role … That’s really what we wanted to create in this challenge.”
Miller, who has been teaching the IBS class mentioned above for two years, explained in an interview with the Justice that placing students on various boards as non-voting members was “all about teaching students how to lead and serve much earlier in life.”
She continued, “Why wait until your middle age to learn how to be a board of director?”
Miller also interpreted the results of this year’s event. “They’re bringing millennial, Gen X-er, Brandeisian intelligence to their assignments and doing wonderful things,” she said.
Students teamed up with organizations such as Charles River Community Health, “an open access health center that includes immigrants and low-income patients”; Land’s Sake, “a local organic community farm that includes education and community outreach”; and Two Ten Footwear Foundation, “an industry wide foundation for footwear firms to address employee challenges and community impact,” according to descriptions displayed at the event. Waltham Boys & Girls Club; the Boston Police Teen Academy, “an inner city youth development organization sponsored by Boston Police”; and the Waltham Chamber of Commerce were also involved.
Other teams worked with the Leland Home, “a service enriched housing solution that serves the aging low to moderate income seniors”; the Community Day Center of Waltham that “provides meals and a day-time place to go for the Waltham homeless”; and the Waltham Partnership for Youth, “a nexus organization for all entities that impact Waltham youth.”
’DeisHacks 2019 is the 13th hackathon event that Brandeis Maker Lab has held, Roy explained. “Last spring we ran this event as a pilot. … And this year we went a step further and we’ve really embedded the teams” in the organizations they are working with.
He said that the event shows how “a variety of different people from Brandeis — scientists, humanities people, business students — can all collaborate together to achieve an outcome that is greater than the sum of its parts.”
“It wouldn’t be possible with just one slice of the University,” he added, describing how the event brings together “a little bit of every piece of the University collaborating together for a social good.”