FSU Team Wins Statewide “Hackathon” Competition to Help Modernize Municipal Government

May 16 • 379 Views • View Comments

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FSU Team Wins Statewide “Hackathon” Competition to Help Modernize Municipal Government
Students craft innovative solutions to defeat teams from nine Florida universities

ORLANDO, FL – A team of Florida State University students emerged victorious from the first-ever statewide civic hackathon, MuniMod, which was hosted by the Florida League of Cities in partnership with Tallahassee’s Domi Station over this past weekend in Orlando. The MuniMod Hackathon is the Southeast’s largest civic tech competition, bringing together students studying fields ranging from electrical engineering to public administration to computer science, all with the goal of addressing problems affecting cities and communities.

The event brought together ten teams representing nationally ranked universities across Florida. Teams of various sizes first completed virtual webinars to gain an understanding of the current climate within municipal government, and then were presented with civic problems challenging our cities. The competitors worked through the night to craft innovative solutions to those problems.

“What Florida needs now is a generation of young minds who are invested in the success of their communities,” said Susan Haynie, president of Florida League of Cities and mayor of Boca Raton. “This competition created the chance to connect with these future leaders and help them start their journey toward improving cities, towns, and villages across the state.”

The two-person FSU team, seniors Maxwell Brecher and Tucker Russ, presented Safebriight, a faster, easier, and overall more effective solution for cities to fix traffic lights. After an intense round of questions and answers with a judging panel of civic tech experts and municipal leaders, the Florida State duo captured the grand prize of $10,000. The competition was so intense that the Florida League of Cities made an on-the-spot decision to award a second-place team, recognizing a concept developed by a quartet from the University of Florida.

The students were given the opportunity to work with world-class advisers and mentors to find a creative solution using their unique skills and backgrounds. The goal of the competition is to find new approaches incorporating modern methods and technology. After 24 hours, the teams presented their solutions to a panel of judges.

“These students see problems in a way that no one else does,” said Dr. Haris Alibašić, assistant professor and advisor for the University of West Florida team. “They have a unique perspective and provide valuable insight that leads to innovative solutions to the world of civic engagement.”

The competition focuses in the areas of civic services, civic analytics, and civic engagement. This includes aspects such as utilities, infrastructure, big data analytics, public outreach, and participation. These factors have been identified as areas in need of improvement in recent years, and the competition provides a platform for students to bring a fresh perspective on how to enhance the current municipal government system.

The ten teams presented an impressive array of municipal solutions, including:
• The University of Florida introduced Idencity, a modern 2-way communication channel to increase civic engagement
• The University of South Florida presented QuicklyGive, a community based platform that allows citizens to donate to local nonprofits
• The University of North Florida focused on keeping pedestrians safe with FloridaSAFE, a platform that provides alerts in real time for pedestrians
• Florida State University tackled the challenge of making fixing traffic lights faster, easier, and more cost effective for cities with its winning Safebriight entry
• The University of Miami proposed engaging all citizens in local issues with CityHub, a mobile app designed to make it easy for anyone to have a voice
• Florida Atlantic University worked to prevent pedestrian-vehicle collisions with a movable solar powered crosswalk named MAT
• Florida International University tackled water management with KUNA, a set of sensors added to pipes that detect and report water leaks in real time
• Florida A&M University debuted Native, a one-stop-shop for local civic resources and events available in every city
• The University of West Florida introduced WalkAbout, a mobile app to allow anyone to discover a city from a local perspective
• The University of Central Florida presented Open Ballot, a free platform to make voting at any level more accessible and transparent

The MuniMod competition lays the foundation for a new generation of civic problem solvers by giving students a way to apply their skills to real-world issues. By working to bridge the gap between technology and cities, the students will help cities throughout Florida, and potentially nationwide.

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