Big data flexed its muscles this weekend at Groundwork, the civic hackathon hosted by the Greater Baltimore Technology Council that called on participants to delve into spreadsheets and tables of numbers to inform potential solutions to urban issues.
More than 120 hackers and community leaders, as well as a team from Maryland StateStat, gathered over two days on the second floor of MLN Advertising in the Carroll-Camden Industrial Area near M&T Bank Stadium.
It was likely among the first hackathon in the state, and certainly the city, to include representatives of city, state and federal government, said GBTC director Jason Hardebeck.
Four different teams presented for one of three awards GBTC was giving out.
- Chris Whong, David Luria and Shea Frederick used data pulled from the Open Baltimore site to plot on a map the national and regional locations of businesses with whom the Baltimore city government has negotiated contracts. One interesting takeaway: fifty-five cents of every procurement dollar went out of the state of Maryland.
- Ellen Worthing used information provided by the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore City Paper and police reports to create an online homicide data share that provides the names of homicide victims, the address block at where they were found and the date each person died, and then geo-coded each homicide to place it on a city-wide map. One interesting takeaway: Worthing’s geo-coded homicide locations were overlaid with a map of CitiWatch cameras, which appeared to indicate, she said, that the blue-light cameras around town aren’t all that effective in preventing crimes, though the argument could be made that without the cameras crime could have been even worse.
- Eliot Pearson, in a quest to make school zones safer, created a map that plotted Baltimore’s 83 speed cameras against the city’s 190 public schools to determine whether there’s enough coverage by speed cameras of the city’s school system. One interesting takeaway: The state of Maryland approved the use of speed cameras within school zones, after Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law Senate Bill 277 in May 2009, although there is some dispute as to what constitutes a school zone.
- Team SNAPGap left Groundwork with one goal: help low-income families in Baltimore get the most use out of meager food budgets while simultaneously improving the nutritional quality of groceries and meals bought. One interesting takeaway: The website SnapGap developed not only allows people to calculate the average cost of dining out versus the average cost of cooking meals at home, but also uses nutrition standards from the federal government to determine the healthiness of the respective meals.
Judging the projects were city CIO Chris Tonjes, Kate Bladow, organizer of the Tech & Social Change Meetup, and Justin Musterman, CEO of MLN Advertising.
Both Pearson and Worthing shared in the Smith Island Cake Award—they split the cake, which represented their success at layering data culled from multiple sources.
Whong’s team won the Formstone Award, given for creating an “aesthetically pleasing and beautiful form of data-mapping,” said GBTC’s Sharon Paley.
The Cal Ripken Prize, awarded to the project that showed the most promise as a continuing effort, was given to SnapGap, which received $1,000 to help develop their nutrition website further.
On Friday, new federal Health and Human Services CIO Bryan Sivak, who was previously Maryland’s CIO, spoke.
Watch his remarks to highlight the event’s kickoff here:
Watch GBTC’s video of the Groundwork presentations and award ceremony: