March 15th, 2019

Securus: A Hackathon Project

A.K.A. How an unlikely trio addressed our biggest fears and ended up winning Western Canada's first all-female hackathon.

From Left: Julia Rosenrauch, Myself, and Carol Ng on three hours' sleep, exhausted and thrilled with our first-place medals.

Cmd-f was western Canada’s first all-female* Hackathon. It took place over 24 hours from March 9th to March 10th and had 200 registered participants. As an official Major League Hacking event, Cmd-f’s first place winners earned points for their school in the international university Hackathon standings. Carol, Julia and I were all surprised and humbled to have won the overall event, as well as the award for best use of the Dragonboard 410c.

The idea for our hack was inspired by a viral recording of a woman who called 911 to ordered a pizza (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oH4GKN3j2F8) and our own personal struggles and fears about walking home late at night. We decided to build an app that would provide users with a friendly chatbot for their evening commutes home, while also allowing them to quickly and discreetly alert law enforcement should they start to feel unsafe. The app uses Amazon Lex to masquerade as a phone or text conversation with a pizza delivery service. It can ask you for details about your order and prompt you for your address, and given certain cue words, change the conversation from casual to alert mode. In alert mode, you’re given the opportunity to share as much information as possible with the bot while your location and situation are shared live to a web app that would ideally be monitored by law enforcement.

Lastly, we set up open-source computer vision software on the Qualcomm Dragonboard 410c in order to detect signs of activity and estimate the safety of the surrounding area. The next steps would be to piggyback the boards onto existing surveillance camera systems across UBC to provide real-time safety data on and around campus.

A link to our project can be found here: (https://devpost.com/software/securus-l3jfq7)

The weekend was an incredible opportunity to exercise our engineering skills in a different capacity than co-op, design teams, and schoolwork. Since all of the technologies we were using were relatively new to us, it was exciting to see how we could draw on our multidisciplinary backgrounds to tackle unfamiliar technical challenges.