Laurier Brantford kicked off the month by hosting its very first criminology hackathon.

Students gathered during the first weekend in March to participate in Launchpad Brantford’s inaugural criminovation challenge. The event was meant to make students think critically of social issues and create designs and solutions that could best serve these issues.

“The Criminnovation Challenge was meant to allow students to explore social issues that they were passionate about,” wrote John Lam, program co-ordinator at Launchpad Brantford.

Lam said that the purpose of the criminovation challenge was to connect students to faculty and municipal representatives that would act as mentors during the hackathon and give them direction and purpose for their design solutions.

The general topics students were encouraged to tackle were homelessness, the City of Brantford’s drug strategy, media and communication of crime, mental health, and crime prevention through early education.

“I let the students drive the conversation and the design. The solutions that each group came up with are uniquely their own,” said Erin Dej, one of the mentors at the criminovation challenge.

Dej and the other mentors provided students with information that they knew on any of the given social issues; they pointed out barrier that students would encounter along the way and encouraged them to try, fail and try again.

“With this group of students the mentoring was easy – they already had the passion and the drive, we just helped them harness it into something concrete,” wrote Dej.

The event was meant to inspire and showcase a variety of social design ideas that the students were passionate about.

“Our solution is to create an interconnected system for all of the social services within the community so that they can share information with one another regarding the citizens they are helping,” wrote Jacqueline Cole, participant and one of the winners of Criminovation of the Year.

“Ultimately our inspiration was to make these services more efficient in the way they function and communicate with each other,” she said.

Neither Cole nor her partner Nithin Elbin came from a criminology background, but she said the event gave them the tools to think critically about social issues in finer detail.

“The winning students demonstrated a firm grasp of the issue at hand,” said Dej. “They had keen awareness of the challenges to implementing this kind of system and designed creative ways to navigate these challenges. They also showed passion, creativity, and independent thinking – incredible skills that will take them far.”

Cole said that winning the challenge was a humbling experience and that all teams there had great potential to carry out their designs. Both Lam and Dej agree that all the teams could continue working out their ideas that would solve social issues.

“The winning team tapped into an issue that those working with people who are experiencing homelessness are grappling with right now, across the country,” said Dej. “With the support of the Launch Pad, they can tap into that and contribute to that conversation.”

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