For the second consecutive year, Technology Access Foundation (TAF) and Comcast Washington recently partnered to host a “technology hackathon with a cause.” The TAF & Comcast Innovation Challenge gives students the opportunity to work with mentors from Comcast to find ways to address societal issues with telecom technology and solutions. The students and mentors work in teams over a series of months to create a concept and an initial prototype that they present at a final competition.
For the 2018/2019 school year, eighteen students broke out into teams and focused on how to create new technology solutions for one of the most pressing issues facing the Puget Sound today – homelessness. With the help of technology mentors and some very creative thinking, the students created some truly innovative technology concepts for helping our local homeless population that can have an immediate impact on this marginalized community.
In the end, a team that created the concept for an innovative platform named “Step It Up”, earned first place, which included a $1,000 college scholarship for each student, and a new Surface Pro laptop for each team member, as well. The basic concept for “Step It Up” is a social networking platform where individuals facing homelessness could connect to resources and support quickly and receive a rapid response.
This competition is a process that spans over half a school year. During the fall and winter, all of 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 meet with Comcast leaders and engineers to learn about network technology and infrastructure, as well.
Putting their new knowledge to use, the students then identify issues to tackle and solutions to create. The competition culminates during the spring quarter at the TAF-Comcast Innovation Challenge presentation sessions. This year’s judges included local influencers like Lisa Stiffler of GeekWire, Scott Greenstone of Seattle Times’ Project Homeless and Trish Millines Dziko of TAF, as well as host of technology industry representatives from Comcast and other local companies.
These types of technical learning opportunities are becoming critical for students in today’s digital economy, and there is a need for more to them across every community in our region. According to the 2018 National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education, students in the U.S. continue to experience inequitable access to STEM-related education resources.
Comcast Washington and TAF are helping address this access gap and are creating an opportunity for students to engage in STEM-focused learning and critical thinking activities with this program.
This program and other contributions from Comcast Washington are a part of the company’s commitment to bridging the education opportunity divide through programs that empower students to participate in the “innovation economy” that currently drives so many extended education and career opportunities in our region.
Comcast has contributed more $350 million in cash and in-kind support since 2011 to help fund a wide range of digital education and technology training programs nationwide, reaching nearly 5 million people through national and local nonprofit community partners like the TAF, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. In 2018, the company achieved a record-level $6 million in philanthropic giving in Washington state to support these types of programs, as well.
For more information about Comcast in Washington state visit: https://washington.comcast.com/about/