The theme of the first annual BlocHacks is refugees.
“We asked the UNHCR, ‘What is the most pressing issue you’re facing now in the field that you believe can be solved with technology?’” says Abdulla Daoud, BA (poli. sci.) 13, executive director of the Refugee Centre. “They gave us a pressing problem they’re facing now and we’re going to announce it during the hackathon. We’re then going to give teams 24 hours to fix it.”
Teams will have to use their collective knowledge and experience to come up with an effective and functional technological solution to the problem. A panel of judges will examine each team’s proposal and select the best ones.
“There will be different categories for the winners; for example, best design, best functionality and most creative use of technology, and then the best solution,” says Daoud. “For the best solution, there’s a cash prize and the team gets to be housed here at DevBloc. We actually help them create that solution — and UNHCR will be a stakeholder in that as well.”
In addition to more than $10,000 in prizes, participants will benefit from presentations by tech giants such as Google, IBM Watson, GitHub and Major League Hacking.
“We’re going to have workshops and info sessions about issues refugees are facing, where technology can help, and how students can help and get involved,” says Daoud. “We’re also going to have a game section so teams can take a breather, yoga sessions and food, of course. We want participants to have an experience.”
A social innovation catalyst
The Refugee Centre was launched only a year ago and it’s run by a dedicated group of Concordia students and alumni.