Hack4Missions Challenges

We’re counting down to #Hack4Missions, Urbana’s first hackathon! This will be an opportunity for creative, gospel-driven problem solvers to come together to collaboratively address real missional challenges with technology.

We’re thankful to be joined by Liferay as a partial sponsor and for their support of the overall vision. This groundbreaking opportunity to bring these organizations and participants together to explore the possibilities of missional technology has all kinds of potential, and we are excited to see what God does in our midst.

Follow the hashtag #hack4missions leading up to, during and after Urbana to watch these incredible mission projects unfold. We also invite you to join us at the Ferrara Theater in St. Louis at 2 p.m. on December 31 to see the project presentations.

Here are the 13 projects we are taking on for Hack4Missions:

Rapid Translation Toolkit


Bible translation on average takes 17 years. A large portion of that time is spent collecting and learning words in the target language. By utilizing a new process to gather words called Rapid Word Collection, the speed of collection is improved exponentially. However, this process is still largely dependent on manual intervention.

Our project goal is—given sample data from two languages, one known and one “unknown”—to derive related word pairs across both languages. Our goal is to introduce new techniques that improve word association and translation timeframes through natural language processing. This challenge builds a tool to support an ongoing effort by Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Road to Rio Olympic Outreach Strategy


This challenge builds a digital/social strategy to support a new film called Struggle & Triumph produced by Athletes in Action. The film features the stories of four Olympians; Lauryn Williams (sprinter/bobsledder-United States) Daniel Dias (swimmer- Brazil) Li Yan (speed skater/coach-China) and Wilson Kipsang (marathoner-Kenya). This film can be watched in full (33 minutes with an opening section and gospel close) or by individual chapters.

Help us leverage and share the stories of these elite athletes by creating a social media campaign (using all platforms) to capture the world's attention during, before, and after the Olympic games, driving traffic to StruggleAndTriumph.com. We want people to watch the film, respond to the gospel with a decision or further questions, and enter a follow-up center.

Small Business Starter App


Although the majority/developing world is characterized by incredible entrepreneurial spirit, aspiring entrepreneurs don’t have access to the necessary educational and organizational resources to effectively start a small business.

In response, our team is building a mobile phone based platform for providing majority/developing world entrepreneurs with educational and organizational tools specifically designed to help them walk through the small business creation process. The core feature of the platform is a checklist that walks users through important steps, including reading on-platform educational materials, filling out a template business plan, and establishing basic accounting procedures.

The platform will be designed to interface with faith-based microfinance institutions who are seeking to increase the success rate of their funding.

Mobile Hub Space


This challenge builds a new app to support InterVarsity Ministry in Digital Spaces, an ongoing ministry. We want to student leaders to remember and reclaim things that are true: Even in digital spaces, these are real people and these are real connections. Even when things feel completely bleak, Jesus is already there. Even when students feel totally alone, there are other students who understand what they’re experiencing.

We are asking you to build a mobile app to cast vision for Ministry in Digital Spaces and make connections with peers and coaches. We will make this app available in the pocket of any student leader who chooses to identify with InterVarsity’s Ministry in Digital Spaces.

Audio Sim


Global Recordings Network has around 650,000 audio files containing various gospel messages in over 6,000 different languages and dialects. Managing such a large number of recordings is very challenging. Many of these recordings are the result of digitizing magnetic reels or records, as we have original recordings dating back to 1939. Occasionally duplicate recordings sneak into our system, but they are not exact duplicates. They may be minor modifications of other recordings, or the result of digitizing the same reel or record again. Since these recordings are not bit-for-bit identical, it can be very hard to find such duplications.

This challenge will be to create a system which can find audio recordings which sound almost identical, but are not bit-for-bit identical. Artificial Intelligence (more specifically, Machine Learning) algorithms can be used to accomplish this task.

LoGOFF the Government


LoGOFF Movement currently has Pray, Partner, and Purchase platforms - and is looking forward to building a Policy-Shaping element to complete the consumer-to-steward cycle. Followers of Jesus need a place to collaborate for Kingdom causes void of political polarization and amplified ignorance. Our hope is to provide a platform for "neighbors" in our mobile app to host prayer meetings, peaceful protests, petitions, and advocate.

New features for our existing mobile app (iOS and Android) would include allowing users to collaborate with Countable and other political advocacy apps to alert neighbors of state and national legislation in their interest; allowing users to upload information to host events like prayer meetings, peaceful protests, and advocacy days, allowing users to post and promote petitions from popular sites like change.org, sumofus.org, and credo.

Library Box


Hack a router so that it becomes a platform for sharing evangelical, devotional, worship and other media to individuals living off the grid. In many restricted access countries, open evangelism is against the law, and Bibles and/or religious materials are outlawed. This makes it difficult for local believers to have access to materials that could teach and encourage them. Likewise, open proselytizing would be very risky.

A simple way to resource the underground church and also to provide evangelistic materials to groups of unbelievers would be to use a router to broadcast out materials that could then be downloaded onto believers and unbelievers’ phones/tablets/devices. Imagine believers in an underground church meeting being able to quickly and easily share gigabyte of electronic materials with each other including: books, audio, worship music, and videos.

What we would want to accomplish at Urbana is to hack the LibraryBox project to all the language characters of the world to be displayed besides just the Western Latin letters. To accomplish this task, two parts of the project must be hacked: the router itself which is the primary source of the display issues, and the web user interface (UI) also needs to be redesigned redesign. Sponsored by Mission Aviation Fellowship.

Secure Mission


Missionaries work in a wide variety of locations and circumstances. In some contexts, mission work cannot be done openly. In such settings, how can missionaries be equipped to function in a safe and secure manner? Through the use of technology and well-designed and documented processes and protocols, how can we enable mission workers to be more effective and, at the same time, more secure when operating in creative contexts?

This challenge will address big picture questions related to how we can ensure safe, secure, reliable, effective operation for mission workers under a whole range of circumstances particularly as the technological and security landscape continues to evolve. (There will be some coding, but the first priority will be to develop a thorough strategy.) Sponsored by OMF.

Urbana Jobs


Systems integration. Complex Data management. Process Mapping and Workflow. Who knew recruiting a Bible Study assistant could be that difficult? You would be surprised. Over 2,000 staff, spouses, and volunteers from across North America give a week of their lives to being a part of compelling this generation to give their whole lives to God’s global mission. This requires identifying over 50 team leaders who create and manage hundreds of teams working thousands of jobs. Multiple factors create a highly complex environment requiring intelligent, integrated business processes.

We would like to develop a financially-viable project solution would identify critical data and integration points and inform Urbana 18 registration requirements. Is there a new way to manage Jobs at Urbana from start to finish?

Games for Missions


Fun and interactive is actually a great way to learn something and a great way to feel something. Entertainment games have an increasing amount of diversity (far beyond just shooter games and fighting games), and there are more and more games with non-entertainment purposes. These are clumped into the broad category of “serious games” which is a field of academic study as well as business development.

This is the type of game that could be dreamt up at Hack4Missions, given the background of everything else happening at Urbana. Some students will write poetry in response to the inspiration of Urbana; we hope some Hack4Missions participants will develop game ideas that will advance the Kingdom of God.

Hospital Run


This challenge builds functionality into open source software for charitable hospitals in the developing world. There are nearly 14,000 facilities in the developing world without a viable, scalable, maintainable solution when it comes to hospital information systems (HIS). HospitalRun is an open source project lead by the technology team at CURE International aimed at addressing this need with a cloud-based software system that deals with the variability of Internet connectivity in the developing world, supporting all functions of a hospital with features that make usability the key objective.

The purpose of this project is to define and implement the user experience for HospitalRun home screen in a way that allows each of the different roles in the system (clinicians, nurses, administrators, service lines, and inventory managers) to both see what’s important to them right now.

Global Worship Initiative


Harnessing the power of globalized technology to empower every nation, tribe, and tongue to unite with the body of Christ in worship by 2040. We are working to help establish a network of centers for worship around the world that will strengthen local communities by providing biblical worship teaching, access to a world of worship styles, instrumental and technical training, and tools for encouraging contextualized, local worship.

We want a way to be able to track progress of local music being produced in local languages and music styles and to pinpoint areas of need. Our goal is to have every nation, tribe, and tongue worshiping in their own language by 2040. We want a strategy for figuring out how Liberty University can use its resources to help that happen. This project will be developing a technological game plan for how to establish a network of musicians, artists, writers, and dramatists (thinking cell phone technology, app development, etc.) who will be able to upload worship resources/songs/compositions from a local level, informed from "the field" and where musicians can add their music and ideas to a collection of songs, local resources, mentors, and online worship training.

Mission Sounds


At Urbana, we want to develop a web app that provides a way for missionaries to record and share audio stories from field locations back to staff at ministry headquarters. The app should be able to record metadata and audio from various devices (computers, tablets, smartphones, etc.) and upload that data to a specified server location that can be accessed by headquarters personnel. The upload can be immediate or the file can be saved until a network connection is available. If a network connection has latency issues, the upload should be able to pause and resume as necessary. Sponsored by Mission Aviation Fellowship.



These blogs are the words of the writers and do not represent InterVarsity or Urbana. The same is true of any comments which may be posted about any blog entries. Submitted comments may or may not be posted within the blog, at the blogger's discretion.

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