NetZero Hackathon – Community Spark (2nd Place!)

A couple weekends ago I was part of the NetZero hackathon. The NetZero hackathon had the goal of assisting homeowners in some way with their NetZero home. Of course this area is pretty niche with not a huge user base yet so we decided to expand ours to target energy saving in general.

The Problem and Idea

A problem we thought that many NetZero homeowners faced is that they are a rare breed, there are not exactly many people like them yet and as such finding other like-minded homeowners is not an easy task, nor is staying in contact with them always easy. We wanted to help people communicate with each other, whether it be sharing tips, earning imaginary internet points, or even sending each other messages just like a social network, we wanted to give them a place. So we set out to build Community Spark. Community Spark (you can login as TheLightningBolt with the password tesla1) is a website that brings people together. Not only that but it incorporates statistics about a houses usage. You can set goals and see progress and compare to other households of the same type. You get to see trending posts from the nation, as well as you can visit a more personal community page.

With this idea we ended up taking home 2nd place. Of course, we could have done better on the business side, but considering our competition consisted of many 3rd and 4th year students I think we did fairly well! You can also view a more official results page on the SoCS website. Pictured below is our team as well as our awesome sponsors!

The Technical Details

These are the details most probably don’t care about, but I am always interested in them, so I can’t be the only one!

Our server was being powered by the same server that is powering this blog you are on right now. It is using a 1GB VPS from Ramnode using the latest LAMP technology. We are using the Laravel 5 framework so that we could develop fast and efficiently and avoid leaving any gaping security holes due to our rapid development. Using Laravel gave us access to extra tools like a powerful Blade theming engine as well form builders. Overall without Laravel we may have spent a lot more time developing things for the project and got less done.

For the client facing side we were using Bootstrap with jQuery and Chart.js (for the fancy graphs).


If you have any comments or feedback on our project you can feel free to leave a comment on this post. If you’d like to address us more personally or about a business request you can email about this project using the email

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