Winning hack connects pets and seniors in Waltham

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WALTHAM, MA — Nearly every organization has problems to solve in their day-to-day. But what every organization does not have is a team of bright college students dedicating themselves to solve those problems in a 24 hour hackathon. This weekend about a dozen Waltham nonprofits had just that during a competition at Brandeis.

Students from Brandeis, Princeton and Boston College stayed up all night Saturday working on problems that were brought to them from Waltham nonprofits. They then had to pitch their solutions to a panel of judges that included the mayor.

The winning team, lead by Gloria Zheng, came up with solutions for a communication problem at Leland Homes, which serves low to moderate income seniors.

The nonprofit is working on staffing, attracting residents as well as overall communications. Solutions included a new website with an online volunteerism scheduling feature as well as calendar of dates and skills needed. The team also developed some quality of life offerings for residents, including an “Uber” approach to connecting seniors to animals.

That hack earned the team $1,000 first prize and Leland Homes a stronger sense of its own next steps and possibilities, according to organizers.

Other hacks included adding 3-D printing and virtual reality components to the Charles River Museum’s programming; a transportation portal that includes ride sharing to solve challenges of getting Waltham residents where they need to go; and a virtual mural art contest to decorate buildings for fundraising. There was also a team that suggested adding an online order and delivery service to an organic farm with a matching ability website for specific donated goods needs for the day shelter.

“The student’s work was truly brilliant!” said co-host Gene Miller of the International Business School’s leadership program.

RELATED: Students To Hack Their Way To Solutions For Waltham Nonprofits

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Photos courtesy Brandeis

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