San Jose calling on community to help solve urgent challenges city is facing

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Calling all dreamers, thinkers, and innovators across the Bay Area!

San Jose is asking the community to help solve some of the urgent challenges the city faces, through an annual competition called 'Unleash Your Geek 2020.'

"We're working to make it as simple as possible for startups to partner with City Hall and scale their products locally," said San Jose's Chief Innovation Officer Shireen Santosham. "We have five key challenges that we're reaching out to the community with and we hope to see those results in about six months."

As part of the competition, city officials are calling for special drones that can help firefighters enhance emergency response.

Another request involves the city's office of immigrant affairs, which is asking for someone to create real-time interpretation tools to help make community meetings more inclusive for limited and non-English speaking residents.

"Just because we have Spanish and Vietnamese interpreters, that also leaves out a lot of other languages, so other community members feel like they don't belong," said Director of the Office of Immigrant Affairs for San Jose Zulma Maciel.

The city is providing $100,000 in seed funding to help accelerate the development of ideas.

One of the solutions that came from last year's challenge involves flood detection sensors along Coyote Creek in downtown San Jose that are still in use today. ABC7 News spoke to Raul Gonzalez, a Silicon Valley applications engineer, who was on a team of students from San Jose State University and Santa Clara University that helped create the technology.

"I feel really great that I could say that I was a part of something that is making a difference in helping our community members, and a community that I'm now a part of as well," said Gonzalez.

To help power the challenge, San Jose is working with a Bay Area organization called 'City Innovate,' which was founded around the belief that government can be a force for good.

"They have to prove themselves. It's like a bake-off, and they drop their tools, and they get evaluated, and at the end of the day, if everything works out, they get a contract and they can take that solution and help cities all across the U.S.," said Co-Chief Executive Officer of City Innovate Jay Nath.

Applications for this year's challenge are due in late January. To learn more about how you can participate, click here.
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