plusnet hackathon

It must be tough to grow up in 2019.

The world is certainly not short of problems, and I worry that young people are just feeling anxious and overwhelmed.

That’s one reason why I’m a Scout leader. Scouting is all about encouraging young people to be a proactive member of their community and give them skills to help sold problems big and small.

I’m a Beaver scout leader so my scouts are mostly aged six and seven. This term we’ve worked to clean up the beach, we’ve looked at how the council can help residents with disabilities on the seafront and made bird feeders to help our feathered friends through the winter.

Plusnet x Scouts Partnership

This month Plusnet launched a pretty brilliant partnership with Scouts that encourages older scouts (aged 11-14) to use technology to solve problems. To kick off the campaign Plusnet arranged a “hackathon” in London.

Loads of scouts came together to use Raspberry Pi computers to start creating new tech solutions to problems related to issues that young people care about the most such as mental health, the environment and homelessness.

Some of the results were really creative! We loved the digital diary that translates emotional words into emojis for users with autism. How about a gamified bin that encourages people to recycle more? Or a timed flashing light that can help you regulate your breathing during a panic attack?

If you’d like to find out more about the initiative, or even organise your own hackathon, you can find out more at the Plusnet website

Running our own Hackathon

Plusnet challenged us to think about how technology might be applied to problems in our community. We spent this weekend thinking about what issues matter to us locally, and how technology could be applied to help solve them. We used the Hack@Home guide from Plusnet to help plan our project.

The issues that the Scouts tackled with their chosen charities over the weekend at their HQ were:

  • Supporting refugees and displaced children with Save the Children
  • Kindness in the community with British Red Cross
  • Better mental health for all with Mind
  • Protecting the environment with WWF
  • Ending homelessness with Crisis
  • Understanding disability with National Autistic Society

We talked about these issues and Flea decided that she’s most worried by the plastic pollution on our local beach. We usually pick up a few items but it’s overwhelming when it’s just the two of us versus a million pieces of litter.

With this in mind, Flea had an idea to create a mobile app that would send an alert to local community members to invite them to a community clean-up.

Here’s how Flea’s “Clean the Dunes” app would work:

plusnet x scouts partnership

  • Download the app before you visit the dunes
  • While you’re on the beach, the app captures your location and asks you to press a button from 1-5 to say how much litter is on your part of the beach
  • The app collates all these community reports and identifies the areas of the beach with the most litter based on community reports
  • At the end of each month, users are all sent an alert inviting them to join a community clean up at a location that the app sees has the most “5” rated reports (and when it is low tide, of course!)
  • Local co-ordinators will bring bags, gloves and litter pickers. The beach gets a good clean-up and it’s a chance to bring the community together!

We don’t have a coding computer and our app-building experience is non-existent, so this is all theoretical. But Flea had fun imagining how her crowdsourced clean-ups could work. So many of us try to pick up litter but our efforts aren’t co-ordinated. I was quite impressed with how well thought out Flea’s Hackathon idea was!

As a Scout herself, Flea knows that Scouting is all about giving kids skills for the future, and she is learning some coding at school already. With this in mind, I’ve decided to use my scout leader powers to award her this – it’s the brand new, exclusive (and rather snazzy) scouts’ badge to celebrate her work.

hackathon scout badge

If you’d like to know more about how you can get involved in the hackathon campaign and do your own Hack at Home, then head over to the Plusnet website to find out more.

We were paid for our time in creating this post but all ideas are my own, except for the app, which Flea would like to point out is 100% her idea.



Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She's also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world's coolest ten year old.