Skip to main content

As global citizens, more and more businesses are investing in corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs to help solve the issues of system social injustice and economic inequity highlighted by COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement. We’ve seen first-hand the incredible power of data to solve seemingly intractable problems and decided to launch our own scalable initiative: to see what the world’s data teams could do when unleashed on both global and local community’ challenges.

Spark + AI Summit 2020 Hackathon for Social Good
The result was the first large-scale, month-long virtual hackathon on social good projects as part of the lead up to this year’s Spark + AI Summit, our annual gathering of data scientists, data engineers and analysts in San Francisco. The data teams who won the hackathon would be invited to fly out to SF to present their projects. Well, as y’all know, we turned the event into a global virtual conference due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But that didn’t keep many talented community members from making a positive impact by submitting a great project.

In fact, I believe that the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement only increased the importance of corporate citizenship and our motivation to ask “how can we help” our communities and our world promote human rights and environmental sustainability and bring about social change.  This is in addition to other efforts at the Spark + AI Summit - including leading the community to raise $101,626 towards the NAACP LDF and Center for Policing Equity (CPE).  We even had an amazing keynote from Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff of CPE where he talked about how data nerds can become justice nerds, and several great sessions on COVID-19.

For the hackathon, we had 44 teams submit projects by hundreds of engineers, data scientists, doctors, climate scientists, designers and concerned citizens, competing for $35k in donations to charities of the winners’ choice. We announced the winners during the Summit keynote, but wanted to share them here in case you missed it.

First Place: 
Taking it to the Streets - used data science to determine the economic effects of street closures during the COVID-19 crisis, using Python, SQL, R and Delta Lake.

By the data team from Revgen in Denver, Colorado
Yulia Quintela, Brian Liberatore, Steve Idowu and Meghan Villard

$20,000 donation to The Gathering Place was made by Databricks on their behalf.

Learn more about their project from their Summit presentation:

Second Place: 
Wildfire Real-Time Detection System using Satellite Imagery - trained a TensorFlow U-Net model using Google satellite imagery and deployed the model for use within a web application.

By the data teams from Shell and Enbridge in Houston, Texas
Disha An, Boran Han, Yanxiang Yu, Zhijuan Zhang

$10,000 donation to the Amazon Conservation Association was made by Databricks on their behalf.

Learn more about their project from their Summit presentation:

Third Place:
Climate Resiliency for the Chesapeake Bay - looked at nitrogen in the water using data from NOAA, USGS and the Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative.  They first did a variety of exploratory data analysis (EDA) and then used AutoML to train a machine learning model which predicts nitrogen levels based on environmental activities.

By the data team from Booz Allen Hamilton
Moe Steller, Grace Kim, Sarah Olson, Lucy Han

$5,000 donation to the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay was made by Databricks on their behalf.

Learn more about their project from their Summit presentation:

Congratulations to the winners and thanks so much to all the data teams who participated in the hackathon. Without each of you, we wouldn’t have been able to gain these insights into problems facing our society today and wouldn’t be making these donations. You can find the complete gallery of submissions on the hackathon site. And, to learn more about the technologies used by the winning teams, all the sessions from Spark + AI Summit 2020 are available online and free for your binge watching pleasure.

Try Databricks for free

Related posts

See all Company Blog posts