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Earlhamites take 1st at Cincinnati 'hackathon' for charitable giving solution

October 31, 2016

UC HackathonA group of Earlham students won first place during RevolutionUC hackathon on October 8 and 9 at the University of Cincinnati.

In 24 hours, Flannery Currin ’19, Minh Vu, Chau Pham and Eli Ramthun ’18 built Help, Actually, a browser extension that allows users to better understand charities that they are considering donating to.

The group was inspired after seeing posts about how well established charities accepted millions of dollars in aid after recent Hurricane Matthew. Some charities use more money than they take in on professional fund-raising and CEO salaries. Help, Actually provides potential donors the opportunity to see why they might not want to support some charities.

“The extension provides a rating from Charity Navigator, a third-party service that ranks charities on financial accountability and transparency, as well as recent news stories illustrating how even seemingly financially responsible charities can fail to make a positive difference,” Ramthun says. “Finally, the extension provides charities that may be better options to donate to.”

Currin says the group divided the work of creating the extension into four manageable chunks. Ramthun aggregated data about charities and pursuing API solutions and scraping data from Charity Navigator. Pham worked on Google Custom Search API to scrape news articles about charities and used AlchemyLanguage API to analyze the sentiment of the articles and provide users with relevant articles. Vu worked on the backend with url and data queries.

“I worked on the front-end development and design and spent most of my time getting the links to display properly,” Currin says. “Our biggest positive is that by the end of the competition, we had something that worked and something that looked the way we wanted it to look.”

Ramthun says he thinks the project stood out for several reasons.

“Hackathons are generally pretty frantic, and a lot or projects end up unfinished,” he says. “Our’s had a reasonable scope so we were able to create a good looking, functional product by the end of the 24 hours. We tackled a real world social issue in a way that hasn’t done before as far as we can tell, and displayed evidence both quantitatively and qualitatively.

“A coherent presentation and demonstration helped too; a lot of teams were pretty frazzled by the end.”

Help, Actually is in developer mode, but the group has ideas of how to make it available to the public.

“For the future we’d like to expand our functionality beyond the small set of charities the extension currently works on,” Ramthun says. “We’d like to pull news stories and ratings from the web automatically rather than storing them in a database, and we’d like to publish the extension on the Chrome Store so people can actually use it.”

Each of the four students won a Microsoft Surface Pro Tablet.  The competition attracted 30 teams.

— EC —

Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success. Earlham is one of only 40 national liberal arts colleges ranked among U.S. News and World Reports' "Great Schools at a Great Price."

Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at 765-983-1256 and zimmebr@earlham.edu.


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