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Drexel Hosts Weekend-Long 'Hackathon'

By Tim Jimenez

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - A weekend long "hackathon" will be taking place this weekend bringing software developers, community activists and others with big ideas together at Drexel University.

The thought of computer hacking may conjure up the thought of installing computer viruses to unknowing victims or stealing from an innocent person's bank account. But Youngmoo Kim wants you to think about it differently.

"Someone actually just conveyed this great story to me about what hacking meant in World War II," Kim said. "'Hacking detail' meant you would take the planes coming back that were shot up in battle and actually hack off the good pieces and reapply them to planes and patch them up and then send them back to battle."

Kim is an associate professor and Dean of Engineering for Media Technologies at Drexel University. He also is the director of the university's Expressive and Creative Interaction Technologies (ExCITe) Center. It is there where "Random Hacks of Kindness" (RHoK) will be taking place over the weekend.

"(RHoK) is celebrating the good kind of hacking. Solutions that can be developed by software developers, engineers and people building things to address problems facing society," Kim explained.

Participants can work with others on a similar project, tackling issues affecting Philadelphians and others.

"Really anyone who's interested in finding solutions to some civic problems, social problems -- education is a big one, can come together, from ad hoc teams and try to work on developing some solutions," Kim said.

Those participating will be able to use data sources available for public use. Kim said Philadelphia in particular has been helpful through its open data initiative.

"There's a massive amount of data that can be applied to looking at these problems," Kim said. "Others (in past RHoK events) have used financial information about purchases made across the city and seeing where there is, perhaps, greater need for investment in a particular area."

The opening reception is taking place at City Hall at 6 p.m. The actual "hacking" is slated for Saturday June 1 and Sunday June 2 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is a $5 registration fee for those who wish to participate. For tickets, click here.

"No one expects, over the course of a weekend, that you're going to solve poverty," Kim said. "You're not going to solve world hunger or global education but we can take meaningful steps in that direction."

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