How do we keep the lines of communication open in the face of disaster? Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is serving up fresh ideas as part of the “Call for Code” hackathon challenge in partnership with IBM, David Clark Cause, United Nations Human Rights, and The American Red Cross. This weekend, Rensselaer and the Rensselaer Center for Open Source (RCOS) will host a 24-hour hackathon dedicated to the 2018 Call for Code disaster preparedness and mitigation theme.

“Communication in the midst of natural disasters – hurricanes, wildfires, flooding, earthquakes – is a massive technological challenge, and one that Rensselaer students are well-prepared to tackle,” said Prabhat Hajela, provost of Rensselaer. “Our campus has a vibrant culture of hosting hackathons, with a strong tradition of idea generation and rapid prototyping, and this event is certain to generate novel initial prototype applications and web tools that will address problems in this sphere.” 

Call for Code is a multi-year global rallying cry for developers to use their skills and mastery of the latest technologies, to create new ones, and to drive positive change across the world through their code, according to the organization’s website. Call for Code brings startup, academic, and enterprise developers together and inspires them to solve the most pressing societal issues of our time.

The competitive challenge asks developers to work out how to use AI, Blockchain, Cloud, Data, and IoT technologies most effectively to improve communities’ disaster preparedness and resiliency. Unlike any other hackathon, the winner of the global challenge will receive $200,000, work with IBM’s Corporate Service Corps to deploy the solution, and have the opportunity to pitch their solution to New Enterprises Associates (NEA) for evaluation and feedback. For the hackathon this weekend, participants will be able to interact with IBM recruiters, network with campus peers, and build their technical resume.

The hackathon will be held in the Rensselaer East Campus Athletic Village, starting Saturday, September 15 at 10 a.m. Opening keynote addresses, beginning at 10:30 a.m., include:

Welcome from Rensselaer: Shekhar Garde, dean of the School of Engineering, and Curt Breneman, dean of the School of Science. The deans will speak broadly on the importance of solving communication problems during natural disasters. 

Welcome from IBM: Angel Diaz, vice president of developer technology, open source, and advocacy. Diaz’s professional passion is to leverage technology to drive positive change, and specifically to empower developers to solve the world’s problems – smarter, faster, together – all in the open source world. He holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Rensselaer, and is a proud member of the Class of 1997.

Address from Subject Matter Expert: Vadim Thomas, Rensselaer Director of Public Safety and Emergency Management. Thomas previously served at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, where he worked for 22 years and has extensive training and experience in crisis and disaster management. He retired as Special Agent in Charge for the Albany Field Office, where he directed over 200 personnel in overseeing terrorism, counterintelligence, and criminal investigations for the states of New York and Vermont. During his career, he was involved in the 9/11 attack on New York City, the 2011 crash of American Airlines Flight 587, Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and 2016 riots in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, sparked by the fatal shooting of 23-year old Sylville Smith. 

Highlights of the event include:

Saturday, September 15

10:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. - opening keynote

12:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. - design and coding

Sunday, September 16

12:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. - design and coding

12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. - pitches and judging deliberation

1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. - winners announced

A detailed schedule and contact information for the event can be found at:

The Call for Code event at Rensselaer fulfills The New Polytechnic, an emerging paradigm for higher education which recognizes that global challenges and opportunities are so great they cannot be adequately addressed by even the most talented person working alone. Rensselaer serves as a crossroads for collaboration — working with partners across disciplines, sectors, and geographic regions — to address complex global challenges, using the most advanced tools and technologies, many of which are developed at Rensselaer. Research at Rensselaer addresses some of the world’s most pressing technological challenges — from energy security and sustainable development to biotechnology and human health. The New Polytechnic is transformative in the global impact of research, in its innovative pedagogy, and in the lives of students at Rensselaer. 

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is America’s first technological research university. For nearly 200 years, Rensselaer has been defining the scientific and technological advances of our world. Rensselaer faculty and alumni represent 86 members of the National Academy of Engineering, 18 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 25 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 8 members of the National Academy of Medicine, 8 members of the National Academy of Inventors, and 5 members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, as well as 6 National Medal of Technology winners, 5 National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With 7,000 students and nearly 100,000 living alumni, Rensselaer is addressing the global challenges facing the 21st century—to change lives, to advance society, and to change the world. To learn more, go to