The IPG Media Lab went in to March like a lion by attending the NY Tech Meetup on the first of the month. To kick things off, Code/Interactive introduced teams of local high school students that had participated in their 24-hour hackathon. The prompt for the project was to design a tech product to help your community. First to present was the team behind Lend a Hand, an online platform that allows students to earn compensation towards a college education in exchange for community service. Companies can choose to contribute to students’ 529 College Savings Plans based on the hours they worked. This encourages young people to participate in socially beneficial activities and build their college resume while also providing a valuable PR opportunity to brands.
Due to the high rate of police brutality in the US, the next team, Protect and Swerve, was inspired to build a map that marked all reports of relevant incidents. Their aim is to create awareness around these events in attempt to curb them in the future. The students made it clear that they are not advocating distrust in police, that they respect cops, and only a small minority are responsible for the offenses that we see in the news. The team also built a game that prompts the user to get to school by avoiding pixelated police. The character is able to pick flowers and deliver them to the officers in the game as a peace offering.
Finally, many teenagers struggle to choose a particular field of study and need a spark to inspire them to pick a career path that suits them. The last student team attempted to provide this inspiration with their product, Teen’s Hope, an app that connects students to mentors for career guidance. The two sides are able to communicate through a Facebook API and can schedule shadowing sessions. This particular correspondent wishes he had had this tool at his disposal when deciding on a major (Political Science? Sure, why not?).
Among the other products demoed were a programmable race car toy whose goal was to teach children STEM from a young age, an aesthetically-pleasing accessory that emits a debilitating siren to ward off would-be assailants, and a database that is making the NY State government more transparent. In addition, the crowd was introduced to Ingredient1, a food discovery app that indexes nutritional facts and provides recommendations based on custom flavor or diet profiles. Another useful app on display was Parking Oracle, which deciphers cryptic parking signs to give you a simple “yes” or “no” answer as to whether you can park in a particular spot at that moment. Finally, Atri.me presented their experimental plug-in that captures a user’s dwell time on content as they browse the web and pays the content author based on time spent. It is safe to say that the future of the New York tech community is very bright.