The goal of Pittsburgh Hackathon? Helping moms survive and thrive!

Photo: Over a single weekend, teams of tech developers collaborated with Pittsburgh moms to create apps and websites.

Raising kids is tough. Luckily, there’s an app for that.

Dozens of local coders and single mothers recently collaborated at Femisphere Codeswitch to create applications that make parenting a little easier.

“The issue is that 77 percent of impoverished households in Allegheny County are run by single moms,” says Satvika Neti, project lead for Femisphere Codeswitch. “We want to give these women all the things they need to not just survive but thrive.”

The weekend-long Pittsburgh Hackathon was organized by the Women and Girls Foundation, a group that empowers females throughout Pennsylvania. Five teams had 24 hours to come up with software solutions that hack life’s problems.

Two apps – Hidden Gems and MommyMaps – tied for first place.

Greg Hopkins, Anthony Levin-Decanini and Kevin Sapp came up with the Hidden Gems app, a prototype that provides recommendations and insider information from moms, for moms, on hundreds of resources and services.

“I was raised by a kick-ass single mother who gave up many things she wanted and needed in order that I would succeed,” Hopkins says. “With her in mind, I signed up for this event.

“What struck me most about the hackathon were the mothers,” he says. “Their ability to plug in and connect to the designers and engineers was remarkable. The feedback that we got from them was what produced our concept. We threw out bad ideas along the way and incorporated new ideas as the event progressed.”

The MommyMaps app, created by Carnegie Mellon University students Rayna Allonce and Tiffany Zhu, connects moms to each other and offers advice on everything from childcare and transportation to healthcare and housing. By leveraging both formal and informal community resources, moms will have help putting together the different pieces of their lives and understanding the best options. A search for childcare, for example, will show locations on a map, along with mom reviews and detailed information about the centers.

“I participated in the hackathon because I wanted to help other moms,” says consultant Mia Isbell. “I can relate to doing all you can and still coming up short and needing help in various areas.

“These apps can connect moms to the resources and services they need,” she says. “When they have this overwhelming feeling, they can receive support. This is the beginning of connection and community.”

The Women and Girls Foundation will continue to work with the teams to further develop, implement and distribute the apps throughout the region.

Neti hopes to offer 10- to 12-week coding workshops to single mothers so they can design their own digital tools. Many of the hackathon participants expressed an interest in learning these high-tech skills.

“One thing we wanted to do was think about how technology could be put to work to help moms,” says Heather Scarlett Arnet, executive director at The Women and Girls Foundation. “How can we create a world where women thrive? Since 2017, our focus has been single moms and how to make their journey easier and improve their economic security.”