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How many apps do you have on your smartphone or tablet? Do you think you could create an app designed for Homewood residents?

The Homewood Public Library is hosting an app competition as part of the 2016 National Day of Civic Hacking.

Hacking usually means someone is stealing private or government information. But for the National Day of Civic Hacking, organizers at Code for America ask people to find ways to make technology work for them and their communities.

Tori Alt, the library’s emerging technologies assistant, said Homewood’s civic hacking activity is meant to have a positive spin.

“I want people to really challenge themselves and hack their community to work for them,” she said. “There’s no requirement that they have a résumé of coding or any experience doing this under their belt. I think this is a great opportunity to explore what they’re capable of and explore technology. Hopefully we get some applicants who are new to this and they’re just going to try.”

The contest is open to Homewood residents. Applications are being accepted through Jan. 15. Submissions will be judged the week of May 29, and the winners will be announced June 4 at a special Maker Fair at the library.

Alt wants contestants to keep in mind that the app should be built using Android and/or iOS systems, the dominant operating systems for smart phones.

“I think it’s important that they try and explore both platforms. I’m not going to make them do both, but the app has to be one or the other,” she noted.

Alt has planned three topics for the app creation competition that could be both fun and helpful for Homewood residents: a guide to Homewood businesses; an emergency information alert system; and choose your own adventure.

The guide is meant to give residents the option to rate or review Homewood businesses. There are similar apps available, but this one would be ultra focused on Homewood with information and reviews from residents who live or work in the community.

An emergency information app would give residents the chance to share what’s happening in the community.

“It’s kind of a networking around town. It was something I thought the people in Homewood would want,” Alt said.

She gave the example of a power outage. ComEd gives general information of how many homes are affected, but the app would allow residents to say what blocks are affected.

The same is true of flooding or road closings.

“People usually use social media on their way home. I think it’s important before they pull out of the parking lot that they’d know the viaduct was flooded,” she said.

The last category, choose your own adventure, has to be Homewood related and family friendly. 

“Maybe it’s a game about Homewood. I’m leaving it completely open,” Alt said. “There are plenty of opportunities to solve problems in the community that other people have thought of that I haven’t thought of, so I wanted to leave that an open-ended option.”

First, second and third place prizes will be awarded.

For additional information, contact Alt at the Homewood Public Library at 708-799-0121.

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