For families where the children spend time commuting back and forth between parents’ houses, keeping track of everyone’s schedule can be a challenge for moms, dads and kids alike. That’s a problem that Alex Jordan, age 11, has faced firsthand, which is why she returned this weekend to the TechCrunch Disrupt SF Hackathon to work on Famtastic, a combination family organizer and private social network for families and other caregivers, like grandparents and nannies.
This is Alex’s second time competing at the TechCrunch Hackathon. In 2013, she worked on Super Fun Kid Time – a playdate finder.
Alex says she came up with the idea for the new project, Famtastic, because her own mom and dad live in separate houses, and it’s been hard to keep up with who’s dropping her off or picking her up from her various activities and lessons.
“I would be having a sleepover with my friends,” Alex explains. “[And I’d have to ask my parents] ‘are you picking us up? When are you coming?’,” she says. “You feel like you’re always bugging them.”
Along with dad Richard, who works at Ron Johnson’s e-commerce startup Enjoy, a concierge service for gadget owners, the team of two built a basic family organizer website over the course of the weekend. Alex says she did some of the HTML templates for Famtastic, and has been practicing her Ruby coding.
Currently, the site lets users create a profile by connecting their Facebook accounts, which then allows them to color-code the activities and events that are entered on the planner accordingly. The site indicates which caregiver has which task covered, and it helps you go back and track how well you’re keeping up with your family’s shared custody agreements.
The idea, notes Richard, is to offer a low-friction alternative to using a shared calendar, like Apple’s or Google’s Calendar, for example. Not everyone uses the same calendaring platform, which can make coordinating schedules difficult, and often results in parents and kids turning to text messages instead. Plus, the user interface on Famtastic is easier to scroll through and view at a glance, as it’s presented more like a “news feed” than a traditional calendar.
In the future, the system could allow for more advanced features like user permissions or photo-sharing, if the two decide to continue the project after the weekend. (Alex wants to finish their older hackathon project first, she says.)
Alex has been interested in tech for some time, finding time to work on coding in between her French horn lessons and basketball, she says. This year, she’s trying to start a Girls’ Tech Club at her Sunnyvale-based middle school. A few of her friends are already interested in signing up, Alex tells us.
The club’s goal would be to interest girls in technology at an earlier age, the young coder explains. “This is the age where we lose a lot of girls,” she says. Asked why she thinks that is, Alex guessed it could be because this is the age where girls become more interested in social activities, rather than things like computers and coding.
Richard will be soon meeting with the school principal to see about getting a room for the girls to meet. He hopes it goes well – they had less luck when they wanted to do something similar in elementary school, he says.
The two said they’re not necessarily here at the hackathon in hopes of scoring tickets to TechCrunch Disrupt this week. Instead, says Richard, they’re here to have fun.
“If we win, it’s just a bonus,” adds Alex.