Experimental Civics


VCU Imagineers Use Spore Stickers to Recycle Cardboard

Earth Hacks Recap

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is a public research university located in Richmond, Virginia and on Jan. 26–27, VCU Earth Hacks happened.

Experimental Civics was immediately on-board with being a sponsor, hosting a design thinking workshop during the event, and providing additional support and intros! Kudos to the whole team for running an amazing event!

Start of VCU Earth Hacks

I caught up with Sanjana Paul, one of the co-founders, to ask her why she has supported this event:

Sanjana Paul
“I started Earth Hacks when I noticed that the rate at which environmental problems are increasing is exponential and the rate at which solutions to these problems are progressing is linear.
Having attended hackathons in the past, I know that during these events, rapid innovation takes place and projects that would normally take months to implement have working prototypes ready in 24 hours.
Attending hackathons, I saw that the types of problems presented for participants to solve are often very limited in scope and don’t seem to address pressing needs.
This led my team and I to realize that nobody has really applied the hackathon model of innovation to environmental problems, and we did so, creating Earth Hacks.”

Hackathon 2019 Themes

The 3 broad themes this year were:

  1. Corporate Sustainability

2. Public Health, Biotechnology, and Medical Waste

3. Energy Efficiency

Here is a link to the DevPost for access to the 22 submitted projects!

Who Attended?

147 registered participants were at this year’s Earth Hacks.

12 different universities were represented, with the highest attendance numbers coming from VCU, George Mason University, and the University of Virginia.

Of the 125 participants who chose to respond to the question asking for their gender, 45 were female and 80 were male.

The breakdown of majors who attended Earth Hacks as shown in the image below:

The breakdown of year in college of those who attended Earth Hacks as shown in the image below:

Credit: Earth Hacks

Mentor Shout-Out

Mentors are a huge component of any hackathon and I was able to catch up with Associate Professor, Stephen S. Fong, Ph.D., from the Department of Chemical and Life Science Engineering at VCU and asked him about the experience of mentoring over the weekend event:

Stephen S. Fong, Ph.D.
EarthHacks was intentionally developed to include a broad spectrum of backgrounds and expertise and as such, an initial challenge for both new and seasoned hackers is determining what the outcomes from EarthHacks projects should look like.
In a nutshell, we want to emphasize a sound problem-solving approach where teams can identify and articulate a problem that is important to them and demonstrate an understanding of the area by describing key aspects and existing approaches that have been attempted.
Each team should be able to describe the uniqueness of their approach and the stretch goal is to develop their idea with sufficient detail that their project is actionable (able to be implemented).
Part of the core challenge is that we like to provide context for thinking big (non-conventional ideas), but since we all want real-world impact, aspects of feasibility are also important.

Hackathon Projects

Here are some winners to highlight from the event:


Team members: Colleen Foley, Rebecca Youngerman, Mollie Gaines

2-sentence bio: ROSS is a Repurposed Open-source Smartphone Sensor that helps reduce e-waste and promotes community growth. ROSS helps communities around the globe bring in open source data on the community they live in and pushes these cities and towns further towards the goal of becoming a smart city without the major costs.

Demo link: https://devpost.com/software/ross

Spore Sticker (Our Exp_Civics Fave!)

Team members: Taylor Duncan, Binal Patel, Trent Jackson

2-sentence bio: Mycoremediation is a form of bioremediation, the process of using fungi to degrade or sequester contaminants in the environment. Allows cardboard to be used as a medium for mushrooms to grow in landfills, and thus accelerates the time necessary for cardboard boxes to decompose.

Demo link: https://devpost.com/software/spore-sticker

Earth Hacks Logo


Team members: Thomas Gordon, Charles Logan Parham, Kishore Bhat, Soham Apte

2-sentence bio: To reduce the commonly unaffordable price tag attached to smart thermostats filled with bells and whistles, we were able to offer a smart thermostat that is projected to surpass efficiency performance tests, while maintaining a modest retail value. Rohe eliminates the need for a digital interface by utilizing an embedded WiFi chip that offers accurate indoor location fixes, thus boosting energy efficiency and cutting costs drastically for the user.

Demo link: https://devpost.com/software/the-green-machine-wc5fe6


Team members: Aliyah Desautels, Anthony Milositz, Jarrod Burrowes, Raymond Hang

2-sentence bio: The application also uses incentives to increase interest in lower the carbon footprint that is caused by driving. This will help create awareness by connecting the data collected with accessible technology along with creating a network to attract different types of users

Demo link: https://devpost.com/software/carbon-2tiax0


Team members: Emma McCamey, Nick Agliano, Sean McDermott, Connor Massaro

2-sentence bio: Our project promotes sustainable living through an easy-to-use, easy-to-implement point collection system. We designed CleanStreak around green habits in the workplace, in the hope that these habits won’t just be a way to get free Lyft rides, but instead help to form healthy, long-lasting habits in and outside of work.

Demo link: https://devpost.com/software/earthhacks

So there you have it! These were amazing projects built in a short amount of time! Congrats to all involved.

Next Steps

As always, if you need hackathon support, give us a shout at Experimental Civics, we’re here with juicy consulting tips and proven templates to help elevate your impact and performance.

If you are a VCU student, make sure to make this event down for next year, perhaps you can even volunteer your time to make it go!

Share the awesome and tag us: @Exp_Civics or @earthhacksvcu

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