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Random Hacks of Kindness, Jr.

Jonathan Blake

Kids work with local non-profit groups to identify how software might help these groups achieve their mission. Kids with little or no exposure to programming work with mentors to learn how software is created. Random Hacks of Kindness, Jr. events help raise the consciousness of kids, non-profits, and people in their communities.

The founder of Random Hacks of Kindness, Jr., Patrice Gans, was inspired by her experience with a hackathon for adults sponsored by Random Hacks of Kindness. “The hackathon wasn’t about landing a job,” Gans says, “It was about helping people.”

Instead of improving skills and gaining exposure, the adult hackathon reflected the Random Hacks of Kindness goal of creating a self-sustaining global community of innovators building practical open technology for a better world, and to ensure their work creates impact in society.

While Random Hacks of Kindness, Jr. is not affiliated with the Random Hacks of Kindness organization for adults, the spirit is the same for children. Instead of solving problems by creating complete software, the goal of the adult hackathons, kids, local non-profits, mentors, and communities design and build prototype apps to gain awareness of how technology can help solve local problems.

Patrice Gans held her first Random Hacks of Kindness, Jr. event while a teacher at Fraser Woods Montessori School in Newtown, Connecticut. She started teaching computer science and programming after a career as a programmer and earning a Masters degree in Computer Science.

At this first event, Gans says, “The kids spent the morning talking with each non-profit group and brainstorming ideas for applications to help solve their problems, then spent the afternoon developing their ideas into an application. Everyone had a lot of fun.”

The ideas for Random Hacks of Kindness, Jr. evolved based on this first event at Fraser Woods. “Our mission is is to empower students to use technology for social good and positively impact the challenges facing local non-profits in their communities,” Gans explains. “We do this by hosting a one-day hackathon where students in 4th-8th grade are paired with computer science mentors and nonprofit representatives to develop prototype smartphone apps for local charities.”

What makes a RHoK Jr hackathon different than the average hackathon is that the young participants get to work directly with local community organizations. Together with their mentors, the groups of students work to create solutions to problems that non-profits can solve with the use of technology. For example, at a recent event at Trinity College, students created an app called the A.F.O.C.GPS Locator App for the animal rescue organization Animal Friends of CT. Students have also created apps for Hartford Habitat for Humanity, Ebony Horsewomen, Bens Bells of Newtown and the Ferret Association of CT.

Any school or group can work with Patrice and the Random Hacks of Kindness, Jr. team to create their own one-day hackathon to benefit local kids, non-profits, and communities.

In order to host an event, groups need to provide a venue that will hold a minimum of 80 people that includes wifi and food for the participants. Random Hacks of Kindness, Jr. can use their connections and expertise to suggest mentors, non-profits, donations, and participants.

As a non-profit, Random Hacks of Kindness, Jr. also accepts donations to help the group help local schools and groups set up and promote their events.

Patrice Gans is optimistic about the future of Random Hacks of Kindness, Jr. “My journey originally began with the search for the perfect experience for my students, something that would inspire them while providing a challenging and fun introduction to the power of computer science. At the same time, I wondered if elementary students would give up a Saturday and spend it indoors, working with strangers to help others? I am thrilled to say the answer is yes! By the end of the event at Westover School this May 2015, close to 200 students, 40 mentors and 30 charities will have participated.”

If you’re interested to host or participate in a Random Hacks of Kindness, Jr. event, visit their website link below.

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Random Hacks of Kindness, Jr.


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