Starting next month, Bing Fund is excited to kick off the first in a series of hackathons around autism. You can find additional details and registration info here.

Last week we started sharing details about the event, primarily on Twitter. Overwhelmingly the response has been positive with many of you expressing support and sharing the news. However, we also received some feedback questioning our motivation and methodology. By sharing the following, we hope to bring more clarity to the event:

Q. Why did you pick autism as a theme?

A. Autism is a neural development disorder that impacts millions of lives, including many Northwest-area families in the high technology industry.  Existing tools and solutions for families and institutions coping with autism are lacking.  Adoption of evolving technologies to support new functional scenarios is sorely needed throughout the lifetime of an individual with autism.

Q. Why the focus on children? What about helping adults?

A. Based on extensive conversations with researchers and top thinkers in the field of autism, we repeatedly heard this is where the biggest need was when it came to making a lifelong impact on people with autism – helping children grow independence. This is not to say adults can’t benefit from more help, they can. But while adults, generally, tend to have more diverse set of needs depending on where they fall on the spectrum, effective support for children is often lacking. This is where, as a tech community using a hackathon format, we felt we could drive the biggest utility around by building apps, for example. Based on what we learn at our first event, we very well may shift our focus to other age groups. If you have thoughts on this topic, always feel free to leave us a comment below.

Q. I saw the agenda. Why isn’t anybody with autism represented?

A. We are actively working with and looking for families touched by autism or autistic individuals to join us at the event. Participation by autistic individuals is absolutely critical to helping formulate and test the scenarios we want to tackle. In addition, we are still refining the agenda so ideas or suggestions on how we can better represent the community are welcome.

Q. What do you hope to achieve, exactly, through the event?

A. Quality prototypes—an online application for a mobile device, for example—which will be subsequently developed at future hackathons or independently by interested parties. The ultimate goal is to introduce a product to market that will help people in real life.

Every hackathon is a learning experience whether you’re a builder, a thinker, a subject matter expert, or even a spectator. This is true for us as a host – the Bing Fund – and we expect and encourage different thoughts and suggestions be shared as we go along.  Healthy dialogue is the lifeblood of a vibrant, passionate community. We appreciate the engagement, and if you’re in Seattle on March 22-24, I hope you can join us in any capacity.

Bing Fund Team