A team of four University of Florida students took second place in the first annual MuniMod statewide hackathon competition May 13 in Orlando.
The 24-hourlong event, which presents civic problems challenging our cities, is sponsored by Florida League of Cities and Domi Station. Each team competes for a grand prize of $10,000 to continue the work on their project. This time around, however, an on-the-spot second place prize – written out on a napkin -- was handed out by judges to reflect a one-point difference.
The UF team included three students enrolled in the Innovation Academy, an undergraduate experience that serves as a training ground for students to better prepare themselves for their career goals. They are Pablo Casilimas, a senior majoring in advertising; Hallie Zimmerman, a senior majoring in sustainability and built environment and president of Innovation Academy Ambassadors; and Ben Anderson, a junior majoring in public relations. Jeff Streitmatter, a senior majoring in industrial engineering, rounded out the team.
The foursome presented IdenCity, a mobile platform that allows for two-way communication between citizens and city government as a means to increase civic engagement. “It’s like a digital town hall, where officials post agenda items and policy updates and citizens can offer suggestions and input via upvoting on items,” said Pablo Casilimas. “Florida is ranked 50 out of 50 for civic engagement, and Gainesville, for example, only had an 11 percent voter turnout [in the most recent election], so our state especially needs to increase engagement.”
The group worked for months on a prototype of IdenCity, creating wireframes using an app called AppCooker, and getting input from city officials and students.
After an intense round of questions and answers with a judging panel of civic tech experts and municipal leaders, the FSU team captured the grand prize of $10,000. However, the competition was so intense that the Florida League of Cities made a surprise decision to award the UF team second place and a $5,000 prize.
“Winning at the MuniMod competition the way we did plays into our strengths as a program,” said Jeff Citty, Director of UF’s Innovation Academy. “We teach our students to seek out opportunities, apply the design process, provide a creative solution, work hard to meet the challenge and do an amazing job presenting. That is exactly what our team did this year and it paid off. We are hopeful to continue the standard we have set and be a part of this great program in future years.”
According to Casilimas, the work is far from over. The team will meet with more officials and citizens to make sure IdenCity is a user-friendly solution that is tailored for its users. Members of the group will attend the Florida Venture Forum this week to seek funding sources to get a fully functioning mobile app developed. To learn more, visit idencity.me.