Hackathon Heroes

Facebook, Mozilla and the MacArthur Foundation Team Up for a Hackathon to Build a Better Web

"Youth live online so it's important for them to understand how to use it wisely and productively and for good."

Fpst3An9obtuTzkcjQpTHzkRorL9DV40DuRQm8Ys5rEYesterday on a grey and drizzly New York morning, hackers, designers and educators gathered in a loft space in Chelsea to participate in the Project: Connect hackathon. Hosted in conjunction with the MacArthur Foundation, Facebook, Mozilla and the Family Online Safety Institute, the event focused on building a “more equitable, social, and participatory internet.” Teams showed up at the space and were treated to a hot breakfast and escorted to the third floor for opening remarks before breaking into groups to start the hacking.

Cynthia Germanotta, a cofounder of the Born This Way Foundation (also known as Lady Gaga’s mom), was a judge for the event, and encouraged kids to build apps that will help promote online cooperation and being better digital citizens. (No cyberbullying, kiddos.)

“Youth live online so it’s important for them to understand how to use it wisely and productively and for good,” Ms. Germanotta told Betabeat. “The earlier you can make that happen the better.”

The MacArthur Foundation’s Connie Yowell said that the hackathon is a one-day kickoff event to help launch the foundation’s overarching digital media and learning competition.

“Our goal today is both to launch the broader set of activities to have a core set of people in New York who really get this work and to begin to create the first set of apps and curriculum of programs that we can put on the Family Online Safety Institute platform for good sites so people can see that these are thing to try to also develop and create,” she said.

At the end of the hackathon, the winners were awarded prizes totaling $48,000. Winners included Congregate, a tool to help kids 13 and over learn and participate in democracy, and Cyberstoop, a community that helps teens locate businesses that offer free wifi and technology tools.

“Coming out of this we will be inviting libraries and museums and other nonpofits to host other events around the country and htis is what we’re doing with the Born This Way Foundation so that youth can have the opportunity to create programs like this too,” Ms. Yowell added.

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