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Weekend-Long Hackathon to Address California’s Historic Drought

Aerial view of boats at Bidwell Marina at Lake Oroville, California during drought. Lake Oroville is at its lowest level in history. - Courtesy of California Dept. of Water Resources
Aerial view of boats at Bidwell Marina at Lake Oroville, California during drought. Lake Oroville is at its lowest level in history. – Courtesy of California Dept. of Water Resources

Everyone Can Get Involved in Developing Sustainable Solutions

By Jennifer Schlüter

Over the weekend of Aug. 21-23, hackers, designers, and problem solvers are invited to create innovative techniques to relieve California’s water crisis under the motto “clean, collect, and consume.” The event in Downtown Los Angeles is a collaboration between Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s #techLA Summer Civic Hacking and rhubarb studios, and kicks off the latter’s hackathon series “Hack for Humanity,” which strives to find solutions for public good in the private sector.

“We all need to actively respond to the drought—from the individual Angeleno to the largest organizations, we must all work to #SaveTheDrop,” urged Mayor Garcetti. “Our efforts to engage the private sector and L.A.’s tech and creative communities have the potential to be a force multiplier on the great work we’re already doing to improve water conservation throughout our region and meet our aggressive water saving goals outlined in my Sustainable City pLAn.”

Cauri Jaye, CEO of rhubarb studios, told us in an interview that the idea for “Hack for Humanity” had been around for some time, but gained focus after the NASA released the daunting report on California’s shrinking water supplies earlier this year. “Now people would have an interest in creating solutions,” Cauri said.

The hackathon was created to bring farmers, rural residents, and water users like you and me together with technologists, designers, experts, and investors, so all these diverse minds can create the most sustainable solutions and make the best out of all resources available – such as industry funding and the largest open data program of any city in the U.S. Rhubarb studios will have space for about 1,000 people, and seats are filling quickly; however, they will provide a live broadcast, YouTube videos, and more to encourage as much participation as possible.

On Aug. 1, rhubarb studios launched a pre-hack for the event where they invited people to find and sign up for projects and collaborations, which are shared among them, but still private to the public. During the hackathon, these will be presented and continued.

For the solutions that result from the hackathon to be implemented, it could take anything from a few weeks for software to a few months for hardware, according to Cauri. If the innovations prove to be effective locally, he plans to operate them worldwide because the “Hack for Humanity” series is “set up to address global problems.” As Cauri has learned from previous similar events, following up on the technical advancements is of utmost important so that they’re not forgotten, or even fall through. Rhubarb studios prepared for this continuation with a civic accelerator in Downtown LA, money lined up for the winning solutions, and other programs.

The inaugural event of the Hack for Humanity series will culminate in a special press conference announcement, followed by an award ceremony for top prize winners to close out the weekend event. A pre-hack meet-up event took place Saturday, Aug. 1st to rally hackers, sponsors, and technology resources ahead of the main weekend event, Aug. 21st to 23rd.

Key event supporters include: rhubarb studios; Intel Corporation; OUE; Pivotal; Esri; IQ Corporation; Hack for LA;; and many more.

To register and participate in the event, visit

To submit a project to the hackathon:

For real-time updates, follow @_rhubarbstudios #waterhack on Twitter.

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