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6/7/2010
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NASA, Microsoft, Google Hosting Hackathon

Yahoo and the World Bank are among the other organizations that will tackle real-world problems during a weekend coding challenge.

NASA, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and the World Bank will be among participants of an event in Washington this weekend bringing together global technologists to solve real-world problems.

This will be the second Hackathon hosted by the Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) initiative -- which the five organizations founded. Simultaneous events also will take place in Nairobi, Kenya; Sydney, Australia; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Sao Paolo, Brazil.

While it's called a Hackathon, the event is more a global software development session at which RhoK brings software developers together to respond to challenges in regions where there is a high risk of natural disaster, according to a Google blog post urging developers to participate in the event.

RhoK members consuls with non-governmental organizations, governments, and global experts to identify problems that technology could solve. Then developers are invited to attend the Hackathons for a weekend of brainstorming and coding to work together to solve those problems, according to the post.

"At a RHoK hackathon, new technologies are born, existing platforms are built upon, and innovative new ideas attract attention and support," according to the post.

Teams present the technologies they've developed at the event and are awarded prizes for their work, which then can be applied to real-world scenarios.

At the initiative's first Hackathon, in November, the problem of how to use data channels to effectively communicate to family members if someone is safe after disaster strikes was posed by the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to a Microsoft press statement.

Over the weekend event, developers prototyped several applications, and the World Bank adopted the winning application and developed it further.

Just two months later in January when Haiti was rocked by a major earthquake that devastated the country, the application was implemented in the field, according to Microsoft. The same application was also used the following month when another massive quake struck in Chile.

The Hackathon in Washington begins Friday evening at the State Department, followed by 48 hours of competitive hacking at Microsoft's Washington office, which is actually in Chevy Chase, Md. On Sunday afternoon there will be an awards ceremony to honor the winning applications.

Developers can find out more about the event on the RhoK Web site.

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