Three Coogs and a Baby – Cleanweb Hackathon Comes to Houston
From September 21-23, Cleanweb Texas held the first Cleanweb Hackathon at Rice Univeristy. Before you get the wrong idea, cleanweb doesn’t have much to do with “clean” website design. Cleanweb refers to a global movement of entrepreneurs building applications that “demonstrate the impact of applying information technology to resource constraints.”
Over the last year, Cleanweb has been making waves by holding hackathons across the world. Thanks to co-organizers Bryan Guido Hassin and Amitav Misra, the Cleanweb Hackathon came to Houston for a weekend. In that short span, 55 hackathon participants created seven new applications that tackle problems of waste, transit, consumption, and environmental awareness.
“The cleanweb concept immediately appealed to me and dovetailed nicely with work I was seeing at SURGE Accelerator and elsewhere in Houston,” co-organizer Amitav Misra explained. “I also knew that Waste Management, the world leader in waste and recycling, is based in Houston, and that Texans in general and Houstonians in particular care deeply about water, air quality, and transit issues.”
Respectfully, the best thing born that weekend was Sancho Zara, son of committee member Anthony Zara. Sancho presented without Powerpoint. He’s just that good.
The next best thing born that weekend was CO2mmuters, a web application designed by three University of Houston students. Led by Jose Pradilla, the CO2mmuters team slept on the floor, ate from the buffet, and spent their waking hours writing code. Their university took notice, too.
Other teams included Amazing Houston (an app that plots restaurants and points of interest from your transit schedule) and Revolutionary Trashcans (a hardware/software system that measures and visualizes cafeteria consumption and waste). One team even opted to organize a massive, sprawling data set from the Shell Center of Sustainability. They knew the project wasn’t sexy, but they also knew it had to be done.
“The teams were using data and APIs they had never seen before,” co-organizer Bryan Guido Hassin explained. “And they managed to figure it out quickly enough to create some really innovative and useful prototypes. It was a great surprise to see just how high quality many of the projects turned out to be after such a short amount of time to work.”
With the notable exception of our new friend Sancho Zara, none of this would have been possible without the tireless leadership of entrepreneurs and Cleanweb community leaders Bryan Guido Hassin and Amitav Misra. In the afternoon fog of happy hours, beer buzz, and big dreams, they led weekly planning meetups full of designers, developers, and eager students. In a matter of weeks, armed with inspiring speeches and force of will, Misra and Hassin put Cleanweb Texas on the map.
“One of the best features of the event was our ability to bring professionals from such diverse places as BP, NASA, Waste Management, SAP, and small entrepreneurial ventures, as well as students from Rice and UH,” Misra noted. “Our winning team was all students, our first runner-up team was all professionals, and our second runner-up team was a mix of students and professionals. So we felt that they all worked well together to build on each others’ enthusiasm, skills, and diverse mix of viewpoints.”
Hassin drove the point home: “When NASA engineers rub elbows with startup entrepreneurs and professional software developers connect with students, it makes our innovation ecosystem richer as a whole.”