CivicApps for Education Hackathon: A Recap

On Sunday, May 22nd we held a CivicApps Hackathon at the Portland Incubator Experiment in partnership with the City of Portland, the Mayor’s Office, and Webvisions.

The hackathon was dedicated exclusively to making mobile applications for education There was time in the morning for presentations from educators involved with the city, and brainstorming sessions and hacking in the afternoon.

The event attracted those with an interest in changing education through technology. This included educators, concerned citizens, mobile developers, graphic and UX designers, and students. Teams presented their projects at 6:30pm and were judged by members of the City of Portland, the education district and local tech leaders. The winning project will be awarded a Webvisionary award for technology in education.

Morning Q+A

The morning Q+A consisted of a panel and a presentation by four members of the education and communication community.

Q+A with Kali Ladd – Mayor’s Manager for educational policy. How can we make education apps better?

Q: What works right now in the Portland Education System?
A: Cross sector collaboration – private, public, faith, non-profits – cradle to career. Success is measured if youth are able to get into a profitable career. Change is that now based on outcome based goals. Challenge is they don’t have a way of collecting valid statistics, and may not know what questions to ask.

Q: How do you see the future of education and technology?
A: A more systemic approach. More broadband access/better providing access to technology in low income communities
Example: Use of iPads increasing achievement.

Q: What could we work on today that would make the most impact right now?
A: I think there’s great opportunity outside of the classroom. For instance, a central place to get information on activities youth can participate in. Portland has lots of events, but no single place to see what youth can do with their time, especially during the summer. This will help prevent gang activity and crime, as well as hopefully providing some immediate educations goals in a fun way.

Q. What buckets would people be interested in
A. Mainly targeting highschool, older. Something that lets kids find their own stuff. Mainly targeted at underprivaleged youth. City provides 100 youth, but 800 left unserved.

Sarah Singer, Project Director – Highschool Inititives

Q: What works in education today?
A: Look at how much instructional time a student has over a year, it’s only 17% of their time at school – probably high. Target what students do with the rest of their time, and target anything that makes them college or career ready. There are lots of resources in Portland, but how to connect them with the students. List opportunities available. grade/age range, what they need help with or are interested in, specfic area drill down. Resource directory of other apps that are helpful.

Karen Fisher Gray, Parkrose School District Superintendant

Q: What not working in education right now?
A: While there’s a strong desire to help education out, only 85% of people don’t have kids in school. A System that is working across the districs and the county, is the professional learning community. It is a kind of scientific recipie for teaching kids. Data collection, benchmarks, interventions for kids, kid by kids asking four questions. The other piece is getting much more embedded with technology, instead of it just being a side thing. Canby has ipads for each child.

Q: What’s working right now? What can we do to help?
A: Talk to the teachers, technology coordinateors, and most especially the kids. Kahn Academy is sweeping the nation. Many kids get help with their math homework from the site. Another thing we need is continuing education apps for teachers.
Apps like Qwikie, and it tells you everything it knows about it. wiki with voice/video.

Matt, 211 Communications Director

Q: What do you want to see today?
A: Location based services to see what is around you in terms of education resources. Kids say they want to be challenged on a daily basis. Homework reminders. Allow teachers to remind kids of homework and lists of homework. Maybe by SMS so it is more accessible.

Q: What is 211 info and what does it offer?
A: Dial 211 and it gives you a call center specialist who will try to help find resources to solve your issue. Also an online database of different needs and services. Normal search, by agency, or drill down. Curated manually with portal for providers to enter/mod their information.

Idea Session

After the presentation and panel, we worked as a group to narrow down the ideas into projects we could work on for the rest of the day. Here’s what we came up with.

1) A student/teacher social network accessible via text. Allowing teachers to send homework reminders via SMS. Allowing one way Q+A with the teacher. Possible Moodle integration via a serverside plugin or subscription service.

2) A Calagator-like calendar for educational/summer opportunities and job fairs/hiring opportunities. Community powered event entry with calendar import.

3) A database of volunteer teachers, tutors, students and volunteers for advanced or remedial students in need of educational support and tutoring. Based on

4) A Kindle or tablet-based curriculum guide with educational material of interest sorted by grade level.

5) A private and anonymous social network for students in need/crises.

After writing the ideas up on the board, the majority of the participants split up into two groups to work on items 1 and 2.

Teams had just 6 hours to build fully working websites or applications. The clock was ticking fast!


The following projects were built during the hackathon. One (MySchool) was modified during the hackathon to be more of a framework.


TheStreamPDX provides a single resource for jobs and events targeted at young adults within the Portland area. The goal of the project is to provide a central repository that anyone can use within the Portland area.

TheStreamPDX aggregates events so that users can visit a single source to discover interesting activities. Event organizers and participants share events with others through The Stream PDX. Event planners use The Stream PDX to check for possible scheduling conflicts, allowing them to make smarter decisions. Many people check the site regularly to find out what events they can attend each day.


MySchoolList provides an easy way to manage & view the school supply list provided by the local schools. In addition it can be used to create a custom shopping list.

Created by Amit Jain and Teena Jain. They modified part of their existing application to fit the needs of schools in a customized way.


Quinn is aimed at low-income youth in underfunded school districts.

Quinn makes it easy for teachers to set up networks with students and share announcements and homework assignments with them from a private number separate from their cell number.

Created by Jill Burrows, Aaron Parecki and David Stewart (student at Clark college).


The winner of the CivicApps Hackathon for education was TheStreamPDX!

Congratulations to the entire team!

    *Dave Shanley
    *Kristin Wolff
    *Kyle Drake
    *Lokkju Brennr
    *Patrick Arlt
    *Roy Martin

Their application is based on the Calagator sourcecode, and is open source.

Judging Criteria

Impact to education

Could the application have an effect on education system?

Originality of idea

How unique is this idea? has it been done before? If so, how is this implementation better?

Best use of technology

Does this application use the mobile platform well? Would you use it on a mobile phone?

Ease of use

How easy is this app to use? Do you get it? Do you see students using it? Would you use it?

Visual quality

Does this app look good? Is is visually acceptable?

Overall value

How valuable do you think this app is?

Also, the Mayor stopped by!

Thanks so much, everyone!

Thank you to Rick Nixon and Skip Newberry of CivicApps for Greater Portland.

Rick Turoczy of Silicon Florist who helped us with the event.
The department of education and all of our great speakers and judges.

Brad Smith of HotPepper Studios and Webvisions, and the Webvisionary Award.

Thanks to Widmer for the Beer, Stumptown for the Coffee and Kettleman’s for the Bagels.

The City of Portland and CivicApps for the HotLipsPizza.

Thanks to all of you for coming!