The AWS (Amazon Web Services) Nonprofit Hackathon Event was amazing! Everyone who attended and participated made the experience a worthwhile one.  Simple Technology Solutions apprentices broke out and joined teams consisting of other DMV area professionals.

For those who don’t know, a hackathon is a design sprint-like event in which cloud developers, engineers, programmers and others involved in software development collaborate intensively on software projects.

The typical goal of a hackathon is to create usable software, although in this case, the hackathon was a platform for Simple Technology Solutions apprentices to gain valuable experience and learn how to work in a team setting.

Hackathons tend to have a specific focus, which can include the programming language used (like AWS) the operating system, an application, an API, or the subject and the demographic group of the programmers.

More about the Hackathon below.

While one apprentice worked with a team that developed a tool aiding in the rescue of human trafficking victims for the nonprofit Polaris, other Simple Technology Solutions team members worked on an application that aided in making the stress of pet adoption a more seamless and virtual process through the use of machine learning for the Best Friends Animal Society.

All in all Simple Technology Solutions apprentices participated, gained new skills, and networked with other participants.

More About the Hackathon

AWS Nonprofit Hackathon: Solving Challenges Related to AI/ ML in Times of Crisis
Amazon Web Services (AWS) invites hackers, creators, innovators, and coders to solve problems, create new tools, and push the boundaries in Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning in the face of crisis.

Over the course of 15 hours, hackers will collaborate with their team to solve technological problems that will help organizations combat disasters or get relief in times of crisis. Teams will compete against each other, demo their ideas, and our esteemed judges will decide who will win the overall competition.


Proficiency in the following programing languages:

.NET, Python, Ruby, C/C++, Objective-C / Swift, Java, PHP, Node, Javascript, HTML / CSS

Desired Skillsets:

Design or UX, web application development, statistical analysis, manipulating or analyzing large data sets, database application development, mobile application development, augmented reality (AR), application development, business intelligence or data visualization, GIS mapping tools, machine learning, the Internet of Things, scripting and automation.


Hackers can choose to solve one of five AWS Customer challenges below. Each organization below will be onsite to give an overview of their challenge, offer guidance or further explanations, and be there for overall support throughout the duration of the hackathon.

Best Friends Animal Society


For over 30 years, Best Friends Animal Society has been running the nation’s largest no-kill sanctuary for companion animals and building effective programs that reduce the number of animals entering shelters. The mission of Best Friends Animal Society is to bring about a time when there are no more homeless pets.


Develop a functioning tool (app, site) that can improve the pet adoption process. This tool will provide much needed efficiency between shelter representatives and prospective adopters with regards to home visits. Using AWS solutions on image recognition and AI/ML technologies, this tool will create a virtual home visit feature for prospective adopters to upload images of their home, yard, neighborhood, as well as text fields to add home size, location, etc. These shelter representatives are constantly having to travel for these in-person home visits and this new tool will help digitally simplify the solution. Providing this new feature in the adoption process removes barriers like out-of-state in-person home visits and give time back to shelter representatives to help get animals into caring homes.



GameChanger’s mission is to leverage gaming, technology, and innovation to improve patients’ quality of life. Through video games, character-based academic scholarships, and cutting-edge technologies like virtual and augmented reality, GameChanger breaks down barriers for children facing long or short-term hospital stays, and particularly those who are isolated for treatment.


Develop a tool to help GameChanger facilitate a variety of actions during online gaming events to participants. This tool should enable GameChanger staff to manage and distribute digital assets in real-time during these online events. (ex. Digital download came codes, digital giveaways such as game keys for Steam, Origin, Xbox, etc.) At times during online events, 5,000+ keys could be distributed at peak hours, and maybe 50,000 over the course of a week. This tool should have a user interface for GameChanger staff with login/password to allow them to distribute assets to specific events. The tool should also have the ability to upload/download digital codes from a file (.csv), automatically deliver codes via API hooks and triggers and have the ability to enable email notification to recipients with AWS SES.



Polaris is a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery. Named after the North Star that guided slaves to freedom in the U.S., Polaris systemically disrupts the human trafficking networks that rob human beings of their lives and their freedom. Their comprehensive model puts victims at the center of what they do – helping survivors restore their freedom, preventing more victims, and leveraging data and technology to pursue traffickers wherever they operate.


Develop an automated, interactive, and public-facing communication tool for Polaris (chat/text bot, voice skill, etc.) that facilitates the reporting of information on perpetrators, victims, and criminal networks in an effort to disrupt human trafficking. This tool should assess for indicators of human trafficking and gather relevant and actionable details (e.g. type of human trafficking, means of control, location, dates, names, physical appearance, demographics, etc.) that can be shared with law enforcement, and then internally cataloged in a standardized format and analyzed.



Thorn is a nonprofit that builds technology to defend children from sexual abuse. The Internet did not create child abuse, but it has democratized it. We know that child abuse permeates all parts of the Internet from the Open Web to the darkest parts of the Deep Web. Thorn works across all of these environments to build tools that find victims faster, deter abusive behavior and make platforms safer.


Develop a tool that can analyze data from the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) which enables law enforcement to easily kickoff child sexual exploitation cases. The number of reports NCMEC currently sends overwhelms law enforcement and provide just the raw data of individuals cases along with simple filters to direct their investigations.

This challenge will leverage machine learning technology to prioritize incoming reports. By empowering law enforcement to filter and analyze NCMEC reports, they will be able to discover the most at-risk children, recognize image trends, locations, ages, and sex, as well as be able to deduplicate cases if similarities arise. Additionally, this tool should be able to leverage information on results of closed cases to give law enforcement insights on what has worked well or poorly.



WeRobotics is a 501c3 non-profit organization in the United States and a non-profit civil association in Switzerland. The purpose of WeRobotics is to foster the safe, ethical and effective implementation of emerging robotics technologies for social good programs throughout the global South. In order to accomplish that mission WeRobotics establishes localized robotics for good innovation labs called Flying Labs, including Peru Flying Labs which focuses on drone operations for global health and disaster resilience.


Develop a tool that can improve feature detection from aerial imagery technology for disaster response and prevention. In conjunction with Tanzania Flying Labs and the city of Dar es Salaam, WeRobotics hopes to provide support to disaster response and prevention. This tool should learn and understand the impact level of damage caused to aid in enhancing emergency response efforts. Currently the aerial technology used is limited providing only raw imagery and this challenge will focus enabling a new tool to conduct a variety of actions, (for example: count damage structures in one location, identify areas of flooding, provide estimated level of action needed, prioritize locations based on impact, etc.) This tool should be able to compute risks and vulnerabilities in a disaster area that can shape decisions toward response and improvements to disaster resilience.