Event Spotlight: Cal Earth Hacks 2020

This blog is the third for 2020 in our event spotlight series, chronicling what happens at various Earth Hacks events and providing insight into the impact these events have and the outcomes they produce. To get in touch with us or learn more, visit our website at earthhacks.io.

A group of students at the University of California, Berkeley, were hoping to have an environmental hackathon on their campus with local students on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Like so many other Earth Day events, in an effort to keep everyone safe, this hackathon ended up pivoting to Cal Earth Hacks 2020, an entirely virtual hackathon held on the first weekend of May and attended by participants all over the world, from Brazil to India.

This is perhaps the fastest organizing turnaround time we’ve ever seen at an Earth Hacks event, with the majority of the planning taking place over two weeks. The motivated group of engineering students worked together across platforms (and time zones — one of the core team members was in Korea!) to pull together challenges, support, mentors, and even sponsorship, prizes, and special events.

Nicole Ulakovic, a civil and environmental engineering major and one of the lead organizers, shared “We put together a sponsorship request package that had some items I was fairly certain had no chance of working and in a couple instances were incredibly pleasantly surprised.”

Cal Earth Hacks 2020 also featured a live recording of the inaugural episode of The Renewable Generation, a podcast about “energy, environmental, and climate issues from the perspective of young people”, according to Kelly Jiang, one of the podcast’s co-hosts. The episode featured an overview of climate science and a discussion on individual vs. collective climate action.

The winning project was CompostShare — a prototype of an app to focus on compost waste, with runners-up focusing on medical waste disposal, eliminating waste from food delivery, and harnessing energy from food waste. CompostShare was featured in Devpost’s newsletter the week after it was submitted.

One of the presenting groups offered this statement during their demo: “We are passionate about making a difference in today’s society and care deeply about bettering the environment. We are thankful to have Cal Earth Hacks as a platform to pursue our interest in this space.”

Nicole further shared that “It was rewarding beyond words to see how we were able to provide the scaffolding, so that other people felt empowered to explore, build, and create in an explicitly environment-focused space. It sometimes feels like there aren’t enough people who care about the issues I find most pressing, but this gave me hope that they’re out there, just waiting for a nucleation site.”

You can view all of the solutions here, and follow @esw_berkeley to stay up to date on their latest events and accomplishments.