Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation
Main content start

Tech Policy Hackathon draws innovative policy proposals for California

Medical vending machines and the use of AI tools to help prevent wildfires were among the winning policy proposals to improve the future of California.

More than 60 college students and early-career professionals from across California gathered at Stanford for California 100's first Tech Policy Hackathon, devising policy ideas that ranged from introducing medical vending machines to using AI to help prevent wildfires.

The Policy Hackathon, held on April 2 and co-sponsored by the Stanford Institute of Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), did not involve coding, but instead focused on the development of public policy ideas that leverage technology to improve the future of California.

“By bringing together top students and young professionals from throughout California, we are laying the foundation for young people to take interest and ownership in the future state they want to create,” said Allison Berke, Director of Advanced Technology for California 100, a research and policy initiative incubated at the University of California and Stanford. “We were impressed with the students’ ideas and creativity, and look forward to working with the winners to take their policy proposals from ideation to action in the coming months.”

In addition to students from Stanford, the participants, aged 18-35, spanned the state — including the University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego), California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the Keck Graduate Institute (KGI), University of California, Riverside (UC Riverside), University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), Loyola Marymount University (LMU), California Forward, Canadian Solar, and San Bernardino Community College. 

Hackathon participants were tasked with developing five-minute pitches for their policy proposals and were asked to consider the financial and logistical implications of their ideas. They also had to explain which communities would be affected by their proposals, who would champion the idea in the policymaking process, and who might oppose it. Thirteen mentors and judges — which included California 100 Commissioners and Advisors, and scholars from SIEPR and the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy — helped guide the participants as they prepared their presentations.

At the end of an intensive afternoon of crafting policy proposals, sixteen teams presented their ideas in a rapid-fire pitch session. Projects addressed environmental policy, criminal justice, housing sustainability, human services, social media regulation, AI governance, tobacco control, transportation policy, and data privacy. The five winning projects were: 

  • Securing California’s Energy Infrastructure to Combat Wildfires (by Solomon Kim and Matthew Kaplan, both of Stanford): Proposes using AI tools to determine where tree-trimming and utility pole maintenance is most needed, and establishing a CPUC committee to assess algorithmic models of directing PG&E’s maintenance efforts.
  • Genetic Data Ethical Committee (by Anna Capria, Sam Irving, Cimone Jackson, Allan Phillips, Sohil Joshi, and Caitlin Caporale — all of KGI — and Cristian Ponce of Caltech): Proposes reallocating portions of California’s public health funding to design guidelines for the state’s use and collection of genetic and genomic data, as well as processes for the privacy-preserving use and sharing of this data.
  • Reaching the Gold Standard of Privacy Law in CA (by Avika Patel and Selena Sun, both of Stanford): Proposes reworking California’s 2018 and 2020 state data privacy laws to match European Union guidelines for sharing personal information, including designing an opt-in interface for web services that collect personal information and tracking cookies, and pilot programs on CA state government websites.
  • Grab and Go Medical Centers (by Arlene Nagtalon of UC San Diego): Proposes a medical vending machine program for underserved and low-income communities, that includes medical supplies, contraception and COVID-19 supplies. The vending machines would allow anyone to access these supplies at any time of day, interacting only with a digital vending machine interface.
  • Digitization of Police Reporting (by Monami Mukherjee and Sarah Olsen, both of LMU; Daniel Jenson and Max Kanwal, both of Stanford; and Sidharth Duthaluru of UC Berkeley): Building on experience with the Stanford Open Policing project, this team identified difficulties sharing and standardizing criminal justice information when police reporting forms and databases vary greatly from city to city and county to county. They proposed developing a standard template for what data is collected in a police report and when that data is collected (such as during a 911 call, a traffic stop, or a search), as well as working with the U.S. Government Accountability Office to make the data as interoperable and openly available as possible.

The winning projects received a prize of $1,000 per person, and California 100’s support to build their ideas into proposed legislation or local demonstration projects. Throughout the next year, California 100 staff will help the winning teams further develop their ideas and provide critical mentorship to support their efforts in turning their proposed policy solutions into reality.

The Tech Policy Hackathon is one of California 100’s many projects that supports young people in building an equitable, sustainable, and innovative California.