almost 6 years ago

Announcement Date Postponed for the Grand Prize Winner Announcement for the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2011: Project REACH Homelessness Mobile App Contest

DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS 8320-01

Announcement Date Postponed for the Grand Prize Winner Announcement for the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2011: Project REACH Homelessness Mobile App Contest

AGENCY: Department of Veterans Affairs.

ACTION: Notice.

SUMMARY: On March 22, 2012, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) published a notice in the Federal Register (77 FR 16895) to announce the launch of VA’s Project REACH Homelessness Mobile App Contest, authorized under section 105 of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2011. Project REACH leadership has decided to postpone announcement of the Grand Prize Winner until no later than 11 p.m. on…

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over 6 years ago

Gallery is Live!

Two terrific apps that submitted after the finalists were selected are now up on the Gallery page for folks to use.  As the Finalists make their way to debut on June 5, we will keep adding submissions to the Gallery.  

To those who have submitted, please respond to our request to add you to the Gallery.  (We need your permission first!)

To those yet to submit, please finish up your apps and get them in so we can add them to the Gallery.  The benefit is that even though you're not in the running for the cash prizes, your…

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over 6 years ago

We Made It!   Project Reach has achieved its goal of five qualified finalists.

This is just a quick note to get the word out as soon as possible. After nearly two dozen submissions since Project REACH launched in mid-March, we have identified our five Finalists!

That is just phase one.

Phase two is the beta test phase during which employees and volunteers at Soul Kitchen have the opportunity to test drive the Finalist apps and be a part of improving them with their user feedback in advance of a grand prize winner being selected among the Finalists. We will announce the Finalists soon.

For those of you still working on your submissions, I…

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over 6 years ago

Important Update: We May Have Our Finalists!

Over the weekend we received submissions that - if they qualify - would fill the final slots in the Project REACH competition. We'll know for certain once we've finished testing and will make the formal announcement as soon as possible.  However, in fairness to those still developing, we wanted to issue this preliminary announcement so that you are aware we may have all of our finalists.

You are welcome to continue to make submissions in the event those in the queue are not qualified, but wanted to make sure you knew as soon as possible that we may have reached…

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over 6 years ago

Reminder: Please remember to include your contact information in your submission

This is a friendly note from our testing team to remind everyone making a submission to follow the submission guidelines. This includes writing up a summary to give us some background into your app and your contact information so that we can get a hold of you without needing to rely on Challenge.gov.

Also, there is one additional piece of information we would love to see in your initial submissions: listing out your data sources. We didn't explicitly ask for it in the original guidelines, but it makes your submission review process much more efficient.

The official submission guidelines are…

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over 6 years ago

Rule Clarification: Using the static data files we provided is not sufficient to meet entry criteria

We've seen an influx of apps relying on the static data files posted to http://www.va.gov/VAi2/Resources_REACH.asp. Unfortunately, those spreadsheets were provided referentially and will never be updated. In most cases, we provided a link to source data which will be updated by the data owners and should be used instead.

In the interests of correcting this, we have asked applicants to find more reliable means of uploading data and mechanisms for keeping it up-to-date.

Please remember to include an explanation of your data sources in your submissions. It goes a long way in facilitating the testing and evaluation phase of…

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over 6 years ago

Important Update: New Jersey HMIS file now contains street addresses for shelters

We're excited to announce that the New Jersey HMIS team has further expanded the shelter data file to include addresses.  Using this data is not a requirement for the initial submissions (although providing bed availability is), but we do want to make you aware of the change as part of your development if you use this data set.

It's worth noting that this file is not perfect yet.  For example, some shelters will not display addresses (which in the case of domestic violence shelters is often an intentional omission). We hope you will continue to share your feedback and your…

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over 6 years ago

How long does it take to be notified about whether you’ve been accepted as a finalist? Can you address the feedback and resubmit?

The time needed to test the entries, write up official responses, and address questions raised by the submissions, such as the recent rule clarification around “jobs services,” varies depending on the individual submission.  On average, we’re finding that it takes a few days between when we receive a submission and when we turn around feedback on the app.

Applicants can resubmit their app if it is not accepted and they would like to make improvements that overcome the deficiencies we identify in our feedback.  We talk a little more about that process here [http://reachthehomeless.challenge.gov/updates/232], but the big takeaway…

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over 6 years ago

Rule Clarification: Local Employment Services and Job Opportunities

One finalist criteria is that the app must provide "information about local employment services and job opportunities".  Including links to jobs sites (e.g. CareerBuilder, Monster) that take users out of the app so that they can run a search on that site is not sufficient to meet the criteria for displaying information about local job opportunities.  Consider including the capabilities for Veterans who know their MOS codes to use services like “HeroJobs.Org”, or the National Resource Directory (NRD) to geographically narrow their search.  The NRD API is available here:  https://www.nationalresourcedirectory.gov/home/api/veterans_job_search

We wanted to publicize this as it was a…

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over 6 years ago

Why judge apps by criteria that include how soon they are entered? Doesn’t this deter a better submission that takes longer to develop?

We understand and agree that there are trade-offs when setting selection criteria. We’ve run several contests and we are determined to make both the rules and our thinking as clear as possible.  

There are two stages to this contest and a separate selection criteria for each.
 
The Finalists are selected first.  For this stage, we chose an objective set of criteria (detailed in the Rules section) that asks contestants to meet a sufficiently high bar as fast as possible.

Each Finalist is then given a cash prize and two 3-day periods for beta tests of their app.  During…

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over 6 years ago

Can non-U.S. Residents apply?

Under America Competes Act, P.L. 111-358, 15 U.S.C. 3719 sec 24 (g) (3) (page 10 of 69 of attachment) only U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the U.S. can compete in this challenge.  However, we would like to see and evaluate your submission.  In order to be eligible, you may apply as a private entity by being incorporated and having a primary place of business in the U.S.

We look forward to evaluating your submission should you decide to apply.


over 6 years ago

Important Update! Achieving the Near-Real Time Bed Availability Criteria!

The New Jersey HMIS team has agreed to begin refreshing its data about shelter bed availability every six hours instead of once a day.
 
Of course six hours is not exactly “real time." using this dataset does fulfill the requirement for “near-real time” bed availability, and thereby establishes a quantitative definition of “near."
 
Providing near-real time bed availability is considered the “floor” and not the “ceiling” for the following Project REACH evaluation criteria; we’d love to see clever solutions that could make it even faster:

“Creates a mechanism that allows for simple aggregation of near or real time bed

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over 6 years ago

Would an HTML5 web app that is optimized for mobile devices be appropriate or does Project REACH require a native application?

An HTML5 web app satisfies the requirement of working on both iOS and Android.  As noted in an earlier Update, only one platform is required for the initial finalists.  One reason for this is that in the event you become a finalist, you would have the $10,000 prize to help with things like covering additional development fees.  We hope that the investment of time and capital will mean that the winning app will be accessible to as many caregivers as possible.


over 6 years ago

Will the app be downloaded immediately upon submission or only when the judging period begins in April (e.g. can the app be enhanced in the interim between submission and judging)?

The April 30 milestone titled “Judges Begin Reviewing Applications” has caused a few competitors confusion. In order to clarify the evaluation timeline, we have removed this milestone.

Submissions will be evaluated on a rolling basis and downloaded on or about the time we receive them (which was always the intention. The rules, however, weren’t explicit about it). Each submission is time-stamped so that earlier submissions are evaluated first. If you make an update to your app after you submitted it, however, you will need to enter a new submission for the new version to be considered. The new submission will…

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over 6 years ago

The contest rules specify 99% uptime as a requirement to be considered a finalist. How will uptime be measured?

The quick answer is that we’ll calculate it manually (e.g., run the app for 100 minutes and see how many times it crashes).  We know that 99% uptime for a piece of software is a low bar.  The application criteria are there to protect users in the unlikely event an applicant meets all of the functional requirements but the product crashes every 15 seconds.

It’s worth noting that we also know there may be concerns about trusting your new software to perform well on someone else’s mobile device.   That’s the reason behind why we offer the option to provide a…

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over 6 years ago

Can the app be enhanced between the date a finalist is selected/notified and when the beta testing period actually begins/ends?

Finalists can absolutely continue to enhance the apps before and during the beta test phase.  The hard stop will be the week of final judging beginning on or about November 5th.  You could continue to update the app during that week, but we can’t ask the judges to go back and retry an app after they’ve already deliberated.  If you made a change after a judge has already made his or her evaluation, your change will be not be reflected in the feedback.


over 6 years ago

Do we need an app and a website?

All submissions must include both an app and a website.  Submissions will be judged based on their app, but no submission is complete without a corresponding website that can also provide the same service for people who do not have a mobile device.  Because users of your service will sometimes have access only to the Internet through a desktop computer, the website is necessary.  For a chance at the $10,000, and subsequently the $25,000 grand prize, the website is needed.


over 6 years ago

Does the app have to be a native app or can it be a mobile web app? (Native apps are the kind that you download from stores like iTunes. Mobile web apps run on the phone/tablet's web browser.)

It can be either. The goal is to produce an app, but also have the service available to someone looking up the information on a desktop or laptop.

Therefore, if you choose to create and submit a native app, great, it just needs to be accompanied by a website. If you choose the mobile web app, it must be accessible on both a mobile browser and a desktop browser.


over 6 years ago

Can submissions be made by collaborative teams?

Absolutely!  The only request we have is that you pick a primary point of contact so that we know who to reach out to and, if you win, a single account for us to deposit the award into.  (Just in case it’s unclear, the team would share any winnings; we wouldn’t award $10,000 per team member.)


over 6 years ago

Can we change the rules to iPhone OR Android?

The contest will continue to require support for both iPhone and Android.  As one of the earlier posters mentioned, only one platform is required for the initial finalists.  One reason for this is that in the event you become a finalist, you would have the $10,000 prize to help with things like covering additional development fees.  We hope that the investment of time and capital will mean that the winning app will be accessible to as many caregivers as possible.


over 6 years ago

What is the marketing plan?

VA and HUD partner with thousands of private organizations that serve the homeless and will have the opportunity to raise awareness of the winning application through those channels.

However, we’ve learned from past competitions that we can’t predict the outcome.  There is immense creativity within the developer community and not just from people who only write code.  We would love to see new channels for outreach, especially if this challenge produces an app that can help homeless Veterans across the country.

over 6 years ago

How can someone meet the requirement if there isn’t access to a constantly updated API?

We understand the frustration with the lack of easily available data.  As one of the other community members mentioned, one reason this contest is being sponsored is precisely because we don’t know what the right solution is.  A contest where all of the data is easily accessible from standard databases is not much of a challenge.  We really look forward to seeing what the community comes up with, the roadblocks you face, and what solutions you find to overcome them.

We know this doesn’t completely address your concern, but we hope you’ll continue to contribute to the group over the…

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over 6 years ago

How about data sets? Any examples of the types of data the app should focus on?

We've compiled some sample data sets as a starting place for your mobile app development project.  You are not in any way obligated to use these data sets, but we wanted to provide some example resources as models or references during your work.  While the links below will bring you to the source of this material, the data sets themselves have been made available to you on our Resources webpage http://www.va.gov/VAi2/Resources_REACH.asp

(Note:  Including a data set does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Veterans Affairs of the organization providing the data, of any organization or individual listed as a…

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over 6 years ago

Are you expecting homeless people to use a smartphone app?

Jon Bon Jovi tells the story of a night at JBJ Soul Kitchen when one guest stayed very late and the staff realized that this man had nowhere to go. They were able to use a laptop they had to find some local resources, but the information on the Internet didn't tell them things like how many beds were available or even what the hours were.

Project REACH primarily focuses on helping the people who help the homeless, and there are a lot more of us out there who could be helping if we had the right kind of information.…

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over 6 years ago

Welcome to the Project REACH Blog!

We received some great questions at Monday’s launch of Project REACH and wanted to use this page to provide responses to those and any other questions that arise (and that we can answer).

Remember that if you have questions we can help you with or that you think the community may be interested in, you can always start a post on the Discussions page.  Good luck, and let us know what you need!