Community Spotlight Series — Carly Cohen

Carly Cohen (she/her/ella) graduated from Michigan State University with a B.S. in Environmental Engineering and a minor in Environmental and Sustainability Studies. In her free time she enjoys yoga, photography, and going for walks with her dog.

Earth Hacks: How did you get involved with Earth Hacks? What was your first hackathon?

Carly: My first Earth Hacks event was during the 2020 Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) Digital Conference, where I participated in a mini-hackathon with the theme of Retrofitting the Future. The team I worked with developed a plan to help the Great Plains region retrofit an efficient and effective water management system into their existing agricultural system, as well as to promote the use of sustainable water management practices. The first Hackathon I participated in was in partnership with The Green Program where participants addressed the issue of Environmental Justice, while incorporating the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The group I worked with developed a sustainable and inclusive community development plan for the residents that live in Cancer Alley, Louisiana.

EH: What do you enjoy most about hackathons? What projects have you worked on that you’re most proud of?

CC: I love having the opportunity to collaborate with people from a variety of different backgrounds and cultures to develop a solution to a problem. Everyone approaches a problem with a different lens and I love being a part of the creativity and ingenuity that arises. I have been fortunate to attend many hackathons and the project I would say that I am most proud of is from ESWCon 2021’s Mini Hackathon that focused on Modular Environmental Education. The team started with the idea to build an educational platform to promote sustainable decisions and practices for homeowners. Currently, we are in the process of developing a user-friendly website to help people easily learn about sustainability.

EH: What’s a fun fact about you that not many people know?

CC: I studied abroad in Tanzania where I worked with a multicultural team on sustainable community development projects. After returning, our team compiled our findings which were accepted into the Journal of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene for Development in late 2020.

EH: What would you say to people who are nervous about going to their first hackathon, environmental or not?

CC: I feel that many people, myself included, associate the word hackathon with the ability to code. Initially, given my minimal experience in coding, I was unsure if Hackathons were something I could participate in. After attending several hackathons, I think that so long as someone has an interest or curiosity about the topic you can participate. You are given time to explore what topic you want to work on and who you want to work with. I have attended hackathons with people from business, consulting, graphic design, science, and social activism, etc. Often, the groups I have worked with were formed by people who did not know one another prior to the event and became a team based on a common interest. Personally, one of my favorite parts of the hackathon is seeing the variety of innovative solutions that people create.

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