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5 Things I learned at the Bing Fund Hack for Autism

This post is written by Christine Hart on the Social Media and Online Fundraising team at Autism Speaks.

I was so lucky to have been invited to participate as a Subject Matter Expert and represent Autism Speaks at this past weekend's Bing Fund Hack for Autism as part of the Hacking Autism initiative. I got to meet amazing coders, designers, engineers, parents and researchers. They all came together to spend one of the few rain free weekends in Seattle, creating apps for those who have autism spectrum disorders and their families. I learned a lot! But here are the top five things that really summed up my experience with the Hack.

1. Every one likes to interact!

There were 11 teams and ideas that were worked on over the week. Some of them were interesting takes on solving every day problems like a visual scheduler that was tied right to your calendar app or Type to Text which was like a picture based See n' Say. Some were focused on getting children on the spectrum ready for the unknown like this app designed to get kids used to the idea of the dentist and what goes on there with an interactive game. This was app designed by an area dentist who treat children with ASD.

2. Fashion Matters!

Jack rocking his live loud shirt

I had the privilege to meet Jack, an employee at Microsoft, a judge on the panel and a man on the autism spectrum. He is the proud father of Alex, also on the spectrum. Alex helped out on the judging. Jack was rocking our Live Loud shirt from Sevenly. He spoke to me about how hard it was for him when his son was diagnosed, but how proud he is of his family. Jack was really inspiring and generously provided extra feedback after the judging to any team that wanted it.

3. Even birds wanted in on the action

Seattle is known for being rainy. Unfortunately for our teams who had to stay indoors, the weather was sunny and in the low 50's! But every one stayed focused. Coding went on after we left the space. The folks from the Bing Fund, David Raskino, Aya Zook and Rahul Sood made sure that we were well fed and caffeinated up for the long haul.

4. Simple robots are super cool too!

One of the teams was trying to create an interactive version of ABA therapy by hacking the Sphero robot. The Sphero would turn a color and the tablet would prompt you to touch the color. If you needed help, you could shake the Sphero and the color square you should pick would shake too! It was a very interesting way of trying to tie flash card methods to the physical.

5. And the winners are…

First 100 Days

Third place went to “What's Next” a visual scheduler and timer that ties into your calendar. You can update it via the web and that event would show up in the schedule. It uses very clear pictures of tasks and transitions to the next as the time ticks down.

Second place went to “Emotional Oracle.” Emotional Oracle is an open source emotional engine for game development. It is meant to help out game developers integrate more emotional intelligence into their games with the goal of teaching children, especially those on the spectrum, to recognize emotions and to integrate into social story telling.

First prize went to “The First 100 Days,” a translation of Autism Speaks 100 day kit into a week by week action plan with access to a glossary, the Autism Response Team and resources based on using location services. The judges said that this app would have the biggest impact on families and children who are over whelmed but by the amount of information and loved how it had reminders to make and keep critical appointments.

Back here in New York, I am not letting the energy of the event pass! I am looking out for ways to continue to support the winning team and get them resources and support to get the app out into the world! Congratulations to all of the teams and all of the amazing ideas that came out of this weekend!

The next Hacking Autism event will be with ATt&T in San Francisco April 12 and 13. Click here for more info and to register for the event.