Supporting Literary, Visual & Performing Artists With Special Needs


HP hosts 'hackathon' for autism

Submitted by Don Whittecar on October 14, 2011 - 1:08 p.m.

In a crowded conference room on the Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) campus in Cupertino, a team of volunteer computer coders huddled around a big, white notepad, tossing out ideas for a touch-screen application that will teach an autistic child how to follow traffic signals and safely cross a street.

A few steps away, a young woman with an autism disorder happily chatted with strangers by typing out words on an iPad. Just a few years ago, her mother said, Kayla Takeuchi, 20, could not speak.

Nearly 100 tech professionals and advocates for people with autism took part in an unusual software "hackathon" that HP hosted this week to develop touch-screen apps for autistic children and their families. Organizers invited the Takeuchis and others to share their own insights on the challenges created by autism.

Ideas were submitted by families and advocates to the Hacking Autism website over recent months, after HP executive Phil McKinney announced the project at two "Maker Faire" tech conferences earlier this year. McKinney said volunteers will continue to refine the apps in coming weeks before they are distributed at no cost over the Web.

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