Pitzer Hackathon Provides Space for 5C, Claremont Civic Collaboration

There is a significant divide along the two sides of Harvard Avenue between the Claremont Colleges and the Claremont Village. Students engage in their own music events, organizations, and studies, while the
Claremont Village offers a separate, thriving community with comic book stores, coffee
shops, and restaurants. 

Mike Ceraso PZ ’14, a political science major, hopes to bridge this
disconnect between the Claremont Colleges and the larger Claremont community
by organizing Pitzer College’s first Civic Hackathon, which will be held tomorrow. 

“The basic
idea is to build civic technology for the community,” Ceraso said. 

it’s a computer program to help businesses attract more customers or to help
government better manage their data, Ceraso envisions that the hackathon will
be able to provide a space where students and community members can collaborate to create products. 

“Hackathons have
this sort of anarchy feel, so we’re not really determining or dictating what
people should build, but we want it to at least be focused on something that can
give back to the community,” he said.

Envisioning a hackathon space dominated not by corporate prototypes but instead by programs about benefiting the community, Ceraso believes that the Civic Hackathon
can have a tangible effect on Claremont as a whole. He hopes to draw in at least 100 students and community members to participate in the event.

“Me and a couple
of my classmates have talked about how technology can help on a civic level and
help local communities,” Ceraso said. “But there’s also a sort of detachment by
a lot of local communities that don’t really understand the technology or the
value of it.”

The hackathon works to this point by not only bridging the gap between students and Claremont residents, but
also creating a connection between the tech world and the local community. 

Schlesinger PZ ’14, a technology and social change major, was also heavily
involved in reaching out to students across the Claremont Colleges to encourage them to participate in the hackathon. She hopes that people will feel
excited about being able to help their community through a technology-based approach. 

“I really wanted to
reach out in a way that would engage both people who are already involved in
tech and people who have not tried developing yet … in a space that is
accessible to them,” Schlesinger said. 

To create a community-wide hackathon event, Schlesinger and Ceraso reached out
to Michael Manning, the owner of the Last Drop Café in the Claremont Village.
As a member of the Claremont Village Marketing Group—a community of business
owners working together to help each other succeed in the Claremont Village—Manning was crucial in the process of persuading many of the community members
and business leaders to volunteer their time and resources to the Civic

idea Manning has for the hackathon is the development of a smartphone app that would connect 5C students with music and charity events in the larger Claremont community. Since he believes that the Claremont community and students at the colleges can learn much from one another, he hopes that the Civic Hackathon
will create a legacy of future interaction between students and community members.

“It opens up tech to a different audience through a different perspective, one that values not just competition and the commercial side of tech, but, more importantly, community-building and social responsibility,” Schlesinger said.

The hackathon is open to any interested individuals, from seasoned programmers to anyone who has ideas and passions for
civic and community issues. 

The event will be held tomorrow, April 19 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Pitzer’s
Founder’s Room, located on the second floor of the McConnell Center. The Last
Drop Café will be catering breakfast at the event. Lunch and snacks will also
be provided, and many businesses are helping to put together “swag
bags” and giving away gift certificates to restaurants and shops in
the Village for event attendees. 

To learn more, visit the Pitzer Civic Hackathon Facebook page or sign up at http://www.siliconcouncil.com/participate. 

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