Groupon Engineers Hacking for Good

10550948_682256991849156_6330119962499547193_nIt seems like a few Groupon employees have seen the 1995 cult classic Hackers.

On Sunday July 27th, seven Groupon computer engineers and two representatives from DevBootCamp held a hackathon in conjunction with the 21st Century Youth Project. Groupon employees mentored 30 high school students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to get excited about computer science.

In honor of our colleague James Rapley, who was an avid cyclist and passed away last year, the “hackers” made use of the data from the Divvy Data Challenge to help the students design, plan, and code some awesome data visualization projects. Hannah Helbert from Divvy had this to say about the importance of the data challenge: “The purpose of the Divvy Data Challenge was to celebrate making all of our trip data public for the first time. It’s important because this data can reveal important information about how people utilize the system and what this means for not just Divvy, but how people travel and experience the city.”

For Groupon’s hackathon, students split into teams of 6-10 and each team had 2-3 mentors helping them come up with a visualization based on the data. After some brainstorming, the students came up with some great ideas around different visualizations, possible uses for the network, and even great ways of improving the bikes themselves.

Hacking ProjectThe following projects were selected by the teams:

  • Visualizing station usage using differently sized circles.

  • Finding out which bike record represented the RED divvy by correlating trips and twitter posts about bike sightings.

  • “Gameifying” the divvy network by offering achievements to users based on the distance traveled, number of stations visited, etc.

  • Ranking riders based on age/distance.

After the hackathon, we reached out to Divvy to see which idea they are most excited about. Helbert told us,“‘Gameifying’ is the most interesting idea to us, since this idea isn’t something we can already easily extrapolate from the data. This one is interesting because it’s a suggestion people have brought up, but that has not been executed. We’d be curious to hear innovative ways to make sure the system is appropriately balanced.”

Congrats to all the student and employee “hackers” on their successful event!