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Self-proclaimed 'nerds' tackle court computers

By Ray Boone | Posted - Mar 5th, 2016 @ 10:10pm

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SALT LAKE CITY -- It's no secret that government doesn't always run as smoothly as we'd like--sometimes the issues can be so complex, they're downright maddening. One group hoping to simplify things gathered for an event at the Matheson Courthouse called "CourtHack."

Their goal? Creating computer programs to help streamline one of most complicated parts of government in existence: the court systems.

Every problem requires a solution. For these self-proclaimed "nerds," solutions are their speciality.

"Little fist pump all around when something comes together," said participant Kameron Peterson.

Court systems can be complicated and rife with problems. Each team identifies potential problems and creates solutions, like streamlining jury notifications.

"I had to call in every single day, the night before," said T.J. Ferrell, who had some bad experience with jury duty in California. "You get this phone system, there's like 12 different options before you can finally get to the option to know whether or not you actually need to come in the next day."

Summer Bammes and her team are working on a program to notify case workers when the homeless encounter law enforcement.

"The case manager may need to say, 'This is when you need to show up to court, this is what you need to wear to court,'" she said.

The participants come from all walks of life. Bammes works in the health section of the Attorney General's office, and describes herself as a "marginal techie at best." She rubbed shoulders with a few college students and even high school computer science teachers.

Communication is vital, but by Saturday afternoon, nerves were wearing a bit thin. That's because this isn't a one-day event--it's been going on since Friday evening.

"Got about two hours of sleep," Bammes said. "Came back at about 8:30 this morning."

When all's said and done, some of these programs could end up being used by courts across the country.

"Some of these apps will go on to be developed, others will go in the great idea bucket, and probably become nothing," laughed Bammes.

But everyone is gaining valuable experience--and for some, the reward lies in simply finding a problem, and uncovering a solution.

"It's like, 'I beat this thing,'" said Petersen. "I was wrestling against this computer, this dumb machine, and it's been beating me for so long, it's a feeling of victory. I love it."


Ray Boone

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