Civic Data Hackathon 2020: Data-Driven Solutions for Memphis
Background: It’s no secret that governments collect data – in fact, it’s essential to serving the public. Once collected, data can be used to shed light on how services are delivered, where there might be gaps, and how we can make improvements. However, these ideas don’t just come from government employees. Oftentimes, the best ideas for improvements come from residents who live, work, and breathe Memphis every day– whether they consider themselves "techies" or not.
Service Question: How can we bring together residents with diverse areas of expertise to brainstorm creative solutions to civic challenges?
Solution: On March 6-8 2020, the City of Memphis partnered with CodeCrew, Innovate Memphis, Shelby County, StartCo, the FedEx Institute of Technology, and Census 2020 to plan its first Civic Data Hackathon. As part of international Open Data Day, Memphis joined cities all over the world in using open data to address civic challenges.
The event was held in the historic Universal Life Insurance Building, now the home of the Office of Business Diversity and Compliance’s Entrepreneurs Network Center, and attendees were challenged to brainstorm "solutions" around three main themes: Transportation & Mobility, Health & Safety, and Neighborhoods & Census 2020 Representation.
"Hacking, in the software engineering space... is where people come together to build software without a formal plan. It's like writing software for fun, is the spirit of how hackathons were born. So we're challenging people to come together on a weekend - techie and non-techie people - to have fun, and solve these problems around taking open data and creatively addressing issues in our city."- Meka Egwuekwe, Executive Director of CodeCrew and co-lead organizer in an interview with local news station Local24
Results: In a packed weekend, over 100 Memphians came out to join a hackathon team, attend a free data workshop, offer technical assistance, serve as a judge or expert speaker, or just visit.
Workshops and Teamwork. While teams were hard at work on Saturday, the City of Memphis, CodeCrew, and Shelby County offered a series of free and public workshops for data beginners: Data 101, Excel Basics, Mapping 101, and Intro to Dashboards.
"It's not just about developers. I mean, we have some really intelligent people in that room. But it's about the people that care about the city also. And those people might not look or sound like developers, but they impact our city."- Audrey Willis, Manager of Innovation and Performance Analysis, Shelby County
Judging and Awards. Teams shared their final projects on Sunday in a series of fast-paced, 5-minute pitches before a panel of judges: Eric Robertson, President of Community LIFT; Doug McGowen, Chief Operating Officer of the City of Memphis; Dr. Andrew Olney, Professor in the Institute for Intelligent Systems and Department of Psychology at the University of Memphis; Kirstin Garriss, Reporter at FOX13 News; and Danny Thompson, founder of the Memphis Google Developers Group (GDG) chapter and software engineer at Frontdoor, Inc.
Judges assessed each project based not only on its technical aspects, but also factors such as potential for real-world application, aesthetics, and collaboration. Ultimately, nine teams completed data projects, and their hard work resulted in some remarkable and insightful final products. See for yourself below!
Grand Prize Winner: Barrier Busters
Jackson McDonald, Gabe Durnbrille, Sue Schnitzer, Jeralyn Richardson
Using census data, the Barrier Busters created an interactive map which shows different types of barriers to census-taking throughout the city. The judges were impressed with this project's immediate practical use, as Memphis aims to ensure all residents are counted in Census 2020. The full project can be accessed at this website.
Transportation & Mobility Winner: DTP
Andrew Whitmore, Autumn Ragland, Jordan Parker, Andie Tubbs, Rodrigo Araujo, Kevin Yancy
Currently, the city tracks potholes based primarily on resident complaints submitted to 311. Team DTP used 311 data to map reported potholes across the city, and developed a mobile phone application to more proactively detect potholes by sensing when users hit a bump. Long-term, the app aims to also assess effectiveness of pothole repairs. Check out the DTP website here.
Health & Safety Winner: Food Solutions
Karen Krog, Trey McGinnis, Jordan Johnston, Angelica Carey
The Food Solutions team tackled food insecurity and waste by overlaying maps of organizations addressing food insecurity (food pantries & banks) with food providers (restaurants & grocery stores) and other data, identifying which sites already address food waste through Project Green Fork or another program. Here's the full presentation.
"The type of stuff that was done in less than 36 hours was truly amazing. And to know that Memphians were lending their talent and their time because they love this stuff, because they think it's fun, was really exciting to see."- Justin Entzminger, Executive Director, Innovate Memphis
Neighborhoods & Census 2020 Winner: Memphis Tigers
Venki Mandapati, Jamal Muhammad, Ned Kumar
Many Memphis neighborhoods face several compounding challenges that make it difficult to thrive. To better understand where these challenges are greatest, the Memphis Tigers team mapped evictions, crime, child elevated blood lead levels, and poverty by zip code. See the full presentation here.
Other Notable Projects
Kareem Dasilva, Melaati Jayah, Andrea Churchville, Brandon Ellis, Edwin Heisse, Jordan Jamison
Team Smart Transit used augmented reality technology to make bus information more easily accessible. Users aim their mobile phone camera at a bus stop, and the app pulls MATA general transit feed specification (GTFS) data to show arrival times for incoming buses. View a demo of what this looks like here, or learn more about GTFS here.
Parker Holland, Pavan Kurakul, Jie Ni, Methembe Moyo, Jake Miligan
The Hackstreet Boys team used data from MATA to develop ideas about how to allocate resources to better serve routes with high ridership. View their presentation here.
Memphis Solar Parcels
Patrick Duhon, Ray Green, Caleb Fisher, Robert Davis
Many vacant land parcels maintained by the Shelby County Land Bank may be difficult to sell or repurpose due to location, shape, or other factors. Team Memphis Solar Parcels identified hard-to-sell parcels and estimated how building mini solar farms on these parcels could offset utility costs for the surrounding neighborhood. Learn more here.
Unsung Memphis aims to be a crowd-sourced platform for preserving "unsung" Memphis history, using a blockchain protocol to authenticate submissions. While the final site is under development, you can learn more here.
Abby Jacobs, Kelmarthony Jenkins, Hannah Atkins, Waseem Alghunaim
Memphis has a high prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and transportation barriers can frequently be an obstacle to getting tested. Team MEGAZORD built a website that aims to connect volunteer drivers with people seeking transportation to healthcare clinics for STI testing. The website also provides information and resources.
Learn more about the Memphis Civic Data Hackathon at https://memphisdatahack.com/. You can also learn more about our wonderful partners at the links below: