Dr. Neal Lester

Ahwatukee professor Dr. Neal Lester is taking his Project Humanities’ annual Hacks for Humanity: Hacking for the Social Good to the internet this year.

The popular weekend-long event, which begins Friday evening, Oct. 9, and runs nonstop for 36 hours to Sunday, Oct. 11, draws participants from different professions, ages, communities and backgrounds for a weekend of creating solutions to big social challenges. 

Because of COVID-19, the event will be virtual this year but still engage Project Humanities’ supporters in talking, listening and connecting. 

Lester, Arizona State University foundation professor of English and the founder of university-supported Project Humanities, doesn’t want people to get the wrong idea of this “hack.”

Too often, people see hacking as a coding-only activity, he said. 

“This event challenges that thinking and welcomes coders, non-coders, designers, experienced and budding entrepreneurs, business folks, engineers, artists, humanists, futurists and everyone in between,” he said.

“Here is an opportunity for cross-generational interactions, networking and community-building. Like other life hacks, this event is about building something to make something better.”

What makes this hacking event unique is the wide audience welcomed and the fact that teams are nor preassembled or challenges prescribed. 

Additionally, all team products must embody in concept and application three of the seven principles in Project Humanities’ Humanity 101 Movement: empathy, compassion, respect, integrity, forgiveness, kindness and self-reflection.

Team tracks this year respond to what’s happening in the world now regarding COVID-19 and this current crisis in racial justice. The tracks are: aging, safety and justice.

Since the mid-March pivot from in-person events to virtual, Project Humanities has continued to deliver new programming via its summer Podcast Club community conversation that have included such topics as Black parenting and corporal punishment, death and dying, menstrual equity, youth mental health and academic pressures, and police departments discarding rape kits. 

Lester said the virtual-facilitated conversations have engaged people from across the country and the globe. 

Rachel Sondgeroth, Project Humanities program coordinator, said the new virtual delivery format “has challenged us to find ways to keep events engaging from afar. We’re grateful for this opportunity to expand the methods of our programming and we’re excited to see what fresh, new ideas come from it.”

This year’s virtual Hacks for Humanity means that participants, mentors, and volunteers can join from around the globe. 

Event participant, Mohit Doshi, an ASU computer science major, said his experience with Hacks for Humanity three years ago “led me to pursue many more hackathons and compete in events across the state and country.”

He was part of a four-member team and “each person contributed something to the project that was unique to their background. There were programmers, a language major, a business major. I liked how everyone’s contributions culminated to create something that was not only a new idea but also implementable.”

This event is open to all from junior in high school through retirees.

 Participants can expect to work on teams, innovate ambitious projects, play games, create websites and canvas business models, hear about entrepreneurial myths and misconceptions and bias in technologies, win $10,000 in cash prizes and “most of all, have fun for a good cause,” Lester said. 

Sponsors include State Farm, Amazon Tempe, Silicon Valley Bank, Come Rain or Shine Foundation, ASU J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute, Celtic Property Management, LLC, ASU Smart City Cloud Innovation Center, Independent Media, PayPal, Canvas Apartments Tempe, ASU University Technology Office, Celtic Property Management, and Arizona Informant.

Registration is required at hacksforhumanity.io. 

Information: projecthumanities.asu.edu/events or leave voicemail at 480-727-7030.

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