Hackathon for Humanity

PROVO, Utah – Nov 21, 2017 – A slumber party in the Tanner (minus the slumber) embodied the stuff of many Brigham Young University freshmen’s dreams. For a group of tech-savvy altruists, the sanctioned sleepover was a means of service.

BYU Marriott’s Association of Information Systems (AIS) club recently kicked off its first-ever BYU Service Hackathon, a twenty-four-hour computer programming competition open to students pursuing any tech-related field. Hackathons are popular among programmers and software developers around the world, and are typically planned around a particular focus. For AIS, that focus was service.

“As a club, AIS likes to look for ways to use our talents and skills to give back and help people,” says Devin Bennett, an information systems senior and the club’s vice president of service. “We thought this would be a great way to do it.”

The BYU Service Hackathon partnered with two nonprofits organizations, CHOICE Humanitarian and Givv Consulting, which needed technological assistance to push their philanthropic agendas. Nearly sixty students arrived in the Tanner Building at 6 p.m. to help.

“I had little confidence going into the event that we would be able to provide something of value to the charity in such a short period of time,” says Chase Bleyl, a second-year MISM student and member of the winning team that worked on the Givv Consulting project. “I was shocked we got so much done in so little time and grateful that effort was going toward benefitting my community.”

Bleyl, along with teammates Dan Morain, Buster Townsend, Eric Pickard, Henrique Bronovski, and Ali Wilkin, developed a design application for Givv Consulting, which runs various humanitarian campaigns around the world. The company requested an app that would allow its employees to choose from a selection of charities to donate to and that would enable donations to be deducted directly from employees’ paychecks. The winning team built an employee portal that provides information about each charity and features funding thermometers so users can track when financial benchmarks are met.

On the CHOICE Humanitarian side, students were tasked with creating an app to help people more conveniently donate goods to the organization’s thrift store, which provides funding for its global stop-poverty campaigns.

“It was exciting to win, but the best part was knowing we were contributing to charity,” says Julio Cruz, a junior studying computer science whose team secured both a victory and a partnership with CHOICE’s field director to complete the app.

Cruz’s team members included Emily Tidwell, Emily Pitts, Paul Russavage, and Trevin Avery. The team developed an Android app that linked to Google Maps, allowing users to find drop-off locations and schedule pick-up spots for thrift store donations.

During the event, students received meals, snacks, T-shirts, prizes, and even video game breaks during their overnight test of mental endurance, largely thanks to the hackathon’s sponsor organization, Pariveda Solutions. Despite the challenge of working beyond bedtime, participants expressed little all-nighter acrimony; most were grateful for the opportunity the event afforded them. 

“It was a privilege to use and test the skills and knowledge I’ve gained here at BYU,” Cruz adds.

Moving forward, AIS plans to hold a hackathon annually and is working to cultivate significant “growth hacking” to expand future events. Good news: this is something they’re good at.

Nearly sixty students participated in the AIS club's first ever BYU Service Hackathon, which took place overnight in the Tanner Building.
The winning team that competed to help CHOICE Humanitarian created an app to help people donate to the organization's thrift store.
The winning team that worked on behalf of Givv Consulting developed an app to help the company's employees donate to charities.

Media Contact: Jordan Christiansen (801) 422-8938
Writer: Afton Izu