County of Marin - News Releases - Hackathon

For Immediate Release
January 24, 2017

County Tech and Health Teams Create Hackathon

Students encouraged to register for Hack4Health on April 1

San Rafael, CA – The tech team and public health department at the County of Marin have created an ode to the code: a hackathon for Marin middle schoolers, high schoolers, community college students, and students of all ages to test their creativity and help devise technical solutions to health challenges that could benefit residents of Marin.

Hack4Health is scheduled for April 1 at the Marin County Office of Education in Terra Linda.

Marin County consistently ranks among the healthiest counties in the state and nation, but some residents aren't doing as well as others. Income, cultural and social barriers can lead to poor health for some residents. The Marin County Department of Information Services and Technology (IST) is teaming with the County’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to present sets of raw data that will serve as fodder for our young coders and creative thinkers. The datasets are posted on the County’s new Open Data Portal, data.marincounty.org.

“The County is trying to engage our local young people to help solve problems they see in their communities,” said Wesley Hill, IST Web Team Manager. “As an organization, we have massive amounts of data and our own insights, but how would young people put it to use in innovative ways to solve a problem for the common good? Perhaps they know of issues we aren’t even aware of.”

A hackathon is generally a gathering of tech-savvy civic-minded residents who get together and work on a coding project in a short period of time, hacking in marathon fashion. Lots of municipalities and government agencies have adopted the hackathon concept to encourage its youth and civic-minded community to participate in localized problem solving and learn more about what local government is doing for its residents.

In Marin’s case, HHS has made available public health data about opioid use, obesity and emergency medical services, and the datasets are available for download now on the Hack4Health webpage.

“We launched the webpage not only as a promotion platform and a way to provide accurate information about the event, but also as a gateway for people to explore health challenges in their communities,” Hill said. “Our hope is that participants can come to the event with an understanding of the issues. At this point we’re reaching out to teachers, school administrators and other education groups to get the word out that this could be an amazing way for a young person to work with our health specialists and help solve some of our greatest health challenges.”

Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis said there is no shortage of data about health in Marin, but “we'll get a lot more out of this wealth of data by opening it up to these interested and talented students. They can really help us get the most out of what we're seeing.”

Marin County Supervisor Damon Connolly, who helped develop the Hack4Health concept, said he is excited about the chance for the County to play a unique role in support of local schools and students.

“It’s exciting any time that the County is able to support our excellent local schools by adding value, in this case providing a unique and innovative opportunity for Marin County students,” Connolly said. “Promoting technology-based learning and coding is all the better to give young people a leg up on future education and career opportunities.” 

Marin students in the seventh through 12th grades or enrolled at the College of Marin are eligible to register. Students can register at the event's Eventbrite page. A password is required for entry; students may reach out to teachers or hackmarin@marincounty.org for a password. All participants must agree to the terms of the event and sign a participation waiver. Participants grant the County the right to use any concepts or ideas generated during the hackathon.

Hack4Health begins at 8:30 a.m. and runs until 6:30 p.m. at the Marin County Office of Education, 1111 Las Gallinas Avenue. The day of activities includes pitches for projects, the formation of teams, several hours of hacking, presentation before the judges, and the awarding of prizes.

The County is looking for event sponsors and volunteers, and several more hackathons are in the planning stages. Email questions or offers to hackmarin@marincounty.org.

Contact:

Wesley Hill
Principal Systems Analyst
Information Services and Technology Department

371 Bel Marin Keys Blvd., Suite 100
Novato, CA 94949
(415) 473-7439
Email: Wesley Hill
IST webpage