Galvanize & Austin Hackathon: Using data for good!


City strategic initiatives drive policy creation and implementation for every city, including Austin. The City of Austin has been on the forefront of opening up their data to the community to create relevant and meaningful plans for the city’s future. When the city approached us at Galvanize, we couldn’t wait to galvanize our community to work on these initiatives!

On April 5, 2017 the Council affirmed both a strategic vision and six corresponding strategic outcomes to guide the City of Austin over the next three to five years. At the Galvanize Hackathon we focused on health and safety initiatives for Austin. Specifically, we focused on the following questions:


  • How could we optimize physical health within the City of Austin?
  • How can we as a community improve mental and behavioral health for Austinites?


  • How could we use the data to improve emergency response times within Austin?
  • Determine and analyze environments where officer involved shooting incidents occur

Led by the City of Austin’s Chief Performance Officer, Kimberly Olivares the participants were energized at the kickoff! There would be one winner in each category that would not only receive an official city proclamation, but would get to present their solutions to the City Manager. At the close of the presentation, the teams started forming and got quickly to work!

Teams worked tirelessly throughout the weekend, combining skills from policy wonks, data scientists, designers, and engineers. One of the teams documented their experience, citing the challenges and lessons learned. Despite those challenges, the participants muddled through, using tips and tricks from city data experts and ESRI, the city’s global information software vendor.

Finally, the time had come for judging! We were lucky to have some amazing judges from the city and industry including, Kevin Mayes, healthcare product expert and CEO of prescriptiQ, Bryon Jacobs, CTO of, Kimberly Olivares Austin’s Chief Performance Officer, and Troy Gay, Assistant Police Chief for the Austin Police Department. To say we were impressed with the results would be an understatement. The five participating teams blew the judges and Galvanize away with what they could do in just 48 hours!

In the end, the judges had to choose only two winners. The Safety Outcome winner focused on improving medical response times with math and magic. They designed a solution that predicts emergency response times based on location and the demographics of the neighborhood. They showed how data can help the City be more proactive in assisting during emergencies.  The Health Outcome winner – Healthcare Rides – created a platform to connect at-risk patients with vouchers for free ridesharing to doctors appointments. This solution would help control chronic conditions and keep patients out of the emergency room. Both teams loved getting their proclamation from the Assistant City Manager, Ray Arellano. How many people do you know have had a day named in their honor from their city?

Overall, the hackathon was a success and Galvanize was proud to take part. We were even more proud to have students, who were only halfway through our Data Science Immersive Program, win both categories! And, not only did we get the community energized about participating with local government, but the teams designed meaningful solutions that will help influence policies in our beautiful  City of Austin!And, we can’t wait to do it again.

Stay tuned for our next hackathon in 2018!