Students hack homelessness at Innovation Challenge in Burien


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Left to right, Brandon Carlisle – Teacher at [email protected] with 1st-place winning student team Step It Up, and Diem Ly, Comcast Community Impact Director. The $1000 check is a scholarship for each of the students, totaling $4,000 for the winning team and brand new Surface Pros for each of them.

Eighteen local students, grades 9th through 11th, gathered in Burien this week to present their ideas to address and “hack” one of our most significant regional social/economic issues impacting the greater Seattle area: homelessness.

For the second year, the Technology Access Foundation (TAF) and Comcast partnered to host the event dubbed a “technology hackathon with a cause.”

From October through December last year, the students regularly attended afterschool study sessions and participated in field trips with social service workers and other experts to learn about homelessness and develop ideas for solutions. As a part of the field trips, the students met with Comcast leaders and engineers in Burien to learn about network technology and infrastructure.

Winning 1st-place student team “Step It Up” holding their trophies and bags with brand new laptops.

Diem Ly (Comcast) presenting “Leadership Award” to Shaunte Nance-Johnson (TAF) in addition to a $25,000 grant from Comcast to fund another Innovation Challenge next year.

Putting their new knowledge to use, the students identified issues to tackle and solutions to create. The program culminated in final pitch presentations by the students to judges on Monday, March 11 at the TAF Bethaday Community Learning Center in Burien.

The winning student team – titled “Step It Up” – received $1,000/each in college scholarships for their closed network social media proposal; a platform intended to provide access and resources for individuals facing homelessness. Students with good attendance and participation also earned a laptop.

As a part of the event festivities, Comcast made a surprise $25,000 contribution to TAF to fund a third cooperative Innovation Challenge next year.

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