Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
April 22, 2024 | Tom Ballard

UT, Knoxville chapter of Hack4Impact quadruples its members under outgoing student leaders

The group's mission is to connect student software developers with nonprofits and other socially responsible businesses to develop powerful new tools for social change.

After leading the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Hack4Impact Chapter through a period of rapid growth and accomplishment, its two leaders are preparing to graduate with the satisfaction of a job well done.

Andrew Rutter and Zavier Miller, who are both majoring in computer science in the Tickle College of Engineering, are Co-Directors of the local chapter. It is one of 16 in the national organization to offer technical services to non-profits around their campuses.

Zavier Miller

“It melds my love for computers and community service,” says Miller, who hails from Nashville and will return to Music City after graduation. Rutter grew up just a few miles up I-24 from Nashville, having been raised in Clarksville. He has secured an opportunity that will allow him to remain in Knoxville and continue contributing his talents to the local chapter.

Each Hack4Impact chapter is student-run and led, and with a common focus: connecting student software developers with nonprofits and other socially responsible businesses to develop powerful new tools for social change. This enables nonprofits to further their mission and better engage their clients with the help of some really exceptional computer science students.

In addition, its secondary purpose is to increase awareness of technology’s potential for good.

Andrew Rutter

When Miller and Rutter assumed the Co-Directorship last May, the UTK chapter had 16 active members. Today, that number has quadrupled to nearly 70, allowing members to take on even more projects for area nonprofits. Each chapter member commits to a minimum of three to five hours per week on their work on nonprofit needs.

Under their leadership, in just over a year Hack4Impact more than doubled its outreach and service to area nonprofits. This year they contributed to the following organizations, with outstanding feedback being received across the board regarding quality of work performed:

  • United Way (Grant Management). The nonprofit that helps direct funding to other nonprofits in the Knoxville area currently has to manually determine which nonprofits to allocate resources to by combing through a massive spreadsheet containing information about said nonprofits. The UTK chapter developed an internal tool to help United Way staff visualize what the community needs and where using an interactive map.
  • United Way (211). This is a social service hotline that directs callers to a local nonprofit based on their needs and receives thousands of calls every year. One of their biggest problems right now is collecting information about nonprofits. The current method is to send a giant form that directors rarely have time to complete. The local Hack4Impact’s solution was a user-friendly interface to streamline the work put on directors, aiming to enhance accuracy and engagement among nonprofits in the area.
  • Compassion Ministries. This nonprofit that hosts massive food, medical, and dental drives across Eastern Kentucky and Eastern Tennessee. Currently, one person is responsible for managing and ensuring the success of these events. This can cause bottlenecks when people are checking in at events and would become a critical point of failure if the person wasn’t able to attend an event. The UTK team came up with an easy-to-use event and volunteer management system that will allow more people to assist in this check-in process.
  • Mission of Hope. This nonprofit provides essential resources for students and families living with poverty across rural Appalachia. Its resources come through donations, and these donations are currently inconsistently tracked in a single spreadsheet. This makes it difficult to easily find and manage items in their warehouse. Our solution is to build a donation management system so that donations and donors are easily trackable.
  • Rooted East. It is a nonprofit that attempts to combat food insecurity by building community gardens. Currently, Rooted East manually tracks volunteers and hours served on a spreadsheet. Again, this leads to inconsistent data entry and makes it difficult to find and compute the hours served for a specific volunteer. The UTK Hack4Impact team’s solution is an event and volunteer management tool, similar to the one they are building for Compassion Ministries.

The UTK chapter is one of only three in the Southeast. The others are at Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology. There are also two international chapters – one at McGill University in Montreal and the other at American University of Beirut in Lebanon.

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