By Tim Gruver
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
We have only 24 hours each day to choose what news we read and that includes our country’s decision makers. Each morning, American officials across the country are handed a single briefing in the form of a printed booklet, detailing the news and information they need to know.
Curating what our country’s higher-ups read is no easy task. This year’s annual ExpeditionHacks is looking for the next generation of problem solvers to broaden the diversity of news stories that reach our leaders’ eyes.
Hosted by information strategy company Blue Compass, LLC from Saturday, May 20 through Sunday, May 21, the competition sees teams of up to five from around the country coding solutions to real-time computer simulations related to tracking social media news at Seattle’s Impact Hub.
“The event got together to build things for other people, entrepreneurs, thought leaders,” said Blue Compass President Christine Jung. “The idea of the hackathon was to solutions to common problems.”
Each team will make a two to three minute presentation and the winning champions will walk away with a grand prize of $10,000. The first runner-up will receive $1,000. Two more prizes of $500 will go to solutions the crowd favorite .
The competition is sponsored by the U.S. National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, whose duties include gathering strategic intelligence critical to counter-terrorism, cyber security, and natural disaster relief.
According to Jung, this year’s judges were selected to represent the hackathon’s emphasis on academics, technology, and local government.
“The ultimate goal of the hackathon is to get work and licensing for teams that participate,” Jung said. “The most valuable feedback that participants can receive is from judges and recruiters.”
The hackathon’s judges are Nathalie Steinmetz, ; software developer Jeffrey Scott from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency; data scientist and tech community organizer Eloisa Tran, Executive D of Ada Developer Academy, Cynthia Tee; and Amazon business intelligence engineer Terry Kong.
While the vast majority of the hackathon’s past participants have been college-age students according to Jung, she hopes that the hackathon’s grand prize money — a $6,000 increase from last year’s $4,000 grand prize — attracts more experienced professionals as well.
“At worst, we’ll still see the best students come out,” Jung said.
Jung, who was inspired to help combat human trafficking after attending a two-day conference on the subject hosted by Catholic University in 2015, allocated much of Blue Compass’ resources to help authorities track online transactions and communications within the industry.
According to a report by the International Labor Organization, human traffickers exploit an estimated 21 million victims around the world, making as much as $150 billion a year. Up to 14.2 million are exploited labor and 4.5 million are exploited for sexual services.
“There’s a lot of stuff we do to help governments innovate and connect with innovators,” Jung said.
“There are a lot of things in information technology that are transferable to other industries, like human rights groups and human trafficking. We can collect data for agencies handling the prosecution side of it, connecting one branch of government to another and helping federal authorities to work with local law enforcement.”
Blue Compass is sponsoring eight more hackathons this year, including its next stop in San Antonio, Texas on June 3. Jung hopes that the competition brings even more minds together to help build the future of the information industry.
“We’re really excited about the caliber of talent this year will bring,” Jung said. “We’re hoping to gain a lot of people attracted to a environment. There are a lot of exciting opportunities to network and meet new people, and we’re excited to see what comes out of [the hackathon].”
Tim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.