Data Scientists Create Prototype Solutions for Social Impact with NBCU


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Data Scientists Create Prototype Solutions for Social Impact with NBCU
  • Pro Social Initiatives
July 10, 2017


On June 23rd and 24th, NBCUniversal and NYC Media Lab teamed up to present the NBCUniversal Social Hack at Civic Hall, a collaborative community center that advances the use of technology for the public good. NYC Media Lab is an organization dedicated to driving innovation and ultimately job growth in media and technology by facilitating collaboration between the City’s universities and its companies.

In this two day hacking event, computer science alumni and students from a wide range of universities across New York applied their developing and coding skills to create technology solutions to real world problems for two non-profit organizations— “Per Scholas” and “Move For Hunger.” Students and alumni formed into 22 teams for each nonprofit track, resulting in over 100 hackathon participants. Both Per Scholas and Move for Hunger are NBCUniversal Foundation 21st Century  Solutions grantees.

“This is different than the hackathons we normally do because it’s for social good. A lot of the time we are looking at events that are commercial oriented solutions but this one is more about solving a problem for these non-profits,” said Justin Hendrix, Executive Director of NYC Media Lab.

Per Scholas provides tuition-free technology training and professional development, helping unemployed and underemployed adults find successful careers as IT professionals. Per Scholas operates six cities across the country, and to date, has trained 6,000 individuals, helping them build lasting, life changing skills and careers in technology. Teams in the Per Scholas track focused on prototyping with data science and data visualization, specifically around keeping the organization’s vast network of alumni engaged with their community.

Move for Hunger works with relocation companies to collect non-perishable food items, and deliver it to food banks all across North America. Many people throw out a good deal of “stuff” when they move. Unfortunately, a lot of this “stuff” is food that could be delivered to a family in need rather than discarded. By teaming up with relocation companies across the country, Move For Hunger is creating one of the nation’s largest year-round service programs. Teams in the Move for Hunger Track worked with UI/UX design to bring awareness to Move for Hunger’s turnkey food drive activation  resources. 

The Social Hackathon began  Friday night with teams introducing themselves to the greater group, pitching their technology solution ideas to Move for Hunger and Per Scholas, meeting with mentors, and signing up for workshops with Amazon Web Services and Salesforce.

Teams were back at Civic Hall at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning to begin a long day of developing their web and mobile based tools. Throughout the day hackers had the opportunity to meet with industry mentors from NBCUniversal who provided technical skills and coached teams on their delivery and presentations for the evening pitch session.

After many hours tinkering and reworking their solutions, Social Hackathon Teams were given three minutes to present their ideas to a panel of judges. Judges included Sowmya Gottipati, VP, Media Labs, NBCUniversal; Jessica Clancy, VP, Corporate Social Responsibility, NBCUniversal; Andrew Pinzler, Sr. Director, NBC News Digital Labs, NBCUniversal; Per Scholas Judges, Carl Labbees and Jake McIntosh; and Move For Hunger Judge, Adam Lowy.

The evening ended with a prize ceremony where three  teams from each non-profit track won a cash prize, a tour of NBCUniversal at 30 Rock, and the opportunity to chat with an NBCUniversal technology executive.  Here is the full list of winning teams: 

Move for Hunger: User Interface/User Experience Track

Grand Prize ($3,000): Team Adhikya Devina Jesrani, Sumit Paul

A web and mobile app that addresses Move For Hunger's current challenges of mission awareness and food drive organization. The app generates beautiful marketing collateral and shares the collateral on social media channels. The app also involves search/discovery partnerships with movers and packaged food companies, creating awareness of the program.

First Prize ($1,500): Parsons MFADT Shenxun Wang, Ziqiang He, Liang Shi

An online community, featuring an AI chatbot, for everyone to host a successful food drive event.

Second Prize ($1,000): For A Purpose Joseph Huaynate, Hui Lin, Syed Chowdhury, Ayo Johnson

A simplified user experience for moving companies and food drive organizers.

Third Prize ($250): DSI SVA Sandy Guberti-Ng, Hrudaya Veena Yanamandala, Yuka Fukuoka

A redesign of the Move For Hunger website to make it more user-friendly for planning moves and donating food.



Per Scholas: Data Science and Data Visualization Track

Grand Prize ($3,000): Above Average Joes Yunbin Zhang, Pat Sukhum

A mobile social app for Per Scholas to increase engagement through job listings, profile system, and chat systems. The app also includes a point system to incentivize alumni to be active. Provide data visualizations for coaches as well as alumni.

First Prize ($1,500): The Kernel Trickers Gary Sztajnman, Amir Imani

A Facebook Messenger chatbot for Per Scholas alumni to connect with Per Scholas.

Second Prize ($1,000): PERsevere Dana Mercury, Tanya Elshahawi, George Lu, Mengge Wang

Gamifying alumni engagement to extract actionable insights for Per Scholas staff.

Third Prize ($250): ITP Patrick Presto, Scott Reitherman, Cristobal Valenzuela, Alejandro Matamala

A toolkit (chatbot, browser extensions, dashboard) for alumni and Per Scholas to keep in touch after graduation.


NBCUniversal believes innovation is good for communities. We were incredibly impressed by the innovative tech solutions generated in such a small amount of time for Move for Hunger and Per Scholas. Congratulations to all the top winners of the NBCUniversal Social Hack!  By supporting nonprofits, social entrepreneurs, and community organizations, NBCUniversal can use the power of media and technology to help solve important social issues in communities of need.

Check out more photos of the NBCUniversal Social Hack here, and see #NBCUSocialHack for more first hand accounts.