Chicago tech community, and our out of town guests, you did something good this past weekend.
Experiences that change our lives. Its been 48 hours since we wound down our Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) event in Chicago, and with this bit of time to reflect, all I can say is WOW!!!!! WOW to the hacker participants, the volunteer organizers that supported them, the sponsors, the judges, the RHoK founders, the event location host CNA Insurance, the world wide collaboration, and finally, the 6 awesome projects which were completed at Chicago RHoK. All in the name of driving innovation through hacking for humanity, and making the world a better place. I am proud to be just one member of this community.
Our first snow storm of the season didn’t discourage the die-hard hackers (hackers for good are ethical technologist who tinker with technology for good). Chicago was one of 21 total cities around the world that participated in this event, and one of 5 ‘main stage’ events. In just one weekend, we were able to build a global community of some of the best and brightest in technology, and to apply our collective skills in solving real problems that haven’t been solved yet for disaster and crisis risk mitigation and response. 80 participants and volunteers attended the Chicago event, and joined over 1000+ developers and fellow geeks around the world, all doing their part to make the world a better place and use technology to help save lives. Feedback has been positive: hackers loved the facilities, the vibe, the collaboration, the food, and want to do this again. Many were inspired by the ‘tech4good’ and hacking-for-humanity message, and will continue this journey. We welcome you.
Here Is Our Chicago Story
NPR did a great story on the NYC event, this is our story.
The Reception – Museum of Science and Industry, Dec 3rd
The Chicago RHoK event started out with a welcome reception on Friday, Dec 3rd, at the Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lakeshore drive.
RHoKers and their supporters were welcomed with a buffet reception, including private tours of the U505 Submarine. The RHoKers were greeted to the Museum by Kathleen McCarthy from MSI (reception sponsor), and Stu Hanney and Robert Allen from CNA Insurance (main event sponsor). RHoK founders core team members from Microsoft (Nandita Pinisetti and Brian Gorbett) , Yahoo (Avni Khatri), and NASA (Garret R. Fitzpatrick), also psyched up the crowd.
Chicago also had local disaster and emergency response experts on hand to provide local perspective and encouragement to the RHoK attendees. Lionell Martin, speaker and project manager from the Chicago Office of Emergency Management & Communications (OEMC), was on hand to share information about disaster preparedness, and encoured the hackers to think locally.
Jackie Mitchell, Director of Marketing and Communications, American Red Cross of Greater Chicago, spoke about ideas on how technology could help in connecting folks after a disaster, and bridging into technology community volunteers. And her story of doing good was inspirational to many.
The Hackathon – Saturday, Dec 4/5
RHoK Chicago Event Photo Streams:
http://www.flickr.com/groups/rhok-chicago/pool/show , and http://www.flickr.com/photos/rhok_chicago/show/ (Dave Kelly, Veronica Ludwig, et al our event photographers)
RHoK Chicago participants were greeted on Saturday morning with a breakfast at CNA and short kickoff to the event, a quick review of some candidate RHoK problem definitions, the Chicago RHoK wiki and other collaboration tools, and broke into teams to start work on these projects.
Some whittling down of projects happened throughout the day (sahana and certs joined forces into one, some initial problem definitions were started on but did not leave the concept phase), and Chicago settled on 6 core projects that were either started new, refinements of existing solutions, or leveraging open source capabilities which were extended.
The teams worked hard, many throughout the night, on their solutions, and each and every one of them completed a solution from concept to coding to deployment, in less than 26 hours. Many collaborated with other teams throughout the world. The work completed by each and every team was amazing!! As main event organizer, I had support and help with other CrisisCamp/CrisisCommons RHoK organizers (my peeps), and worked closely with Toronto RHoK (Heather Leson and Melanie Gorka) and Boston RHoK (Monika Adamczyk and Thom Goodsell) , and our wiki and irc support in the UK (Chris Foote) . Throughout the event, we streamed the live feeds (ustream.tv) from other cities, including Seattle, Bangelore, Atlanta, Boston, Toronto, and Naroibi, to name a few, and collaborated globally via IRC and Skype. CNA volunteers made sure that the participants were well fed and oriented.
By Sunday at noon our teams had to submit their projects to be reviewed by our judges: Locally, Shelly Mujtaba (Software Architect for Autodesk), Peter Morano (CIO of KeyLimeTie), Pek Pongpaet (VP of SpotOn), and from Nasa, Garret R. Fitzpatrick). Each team was able to present their solution for 5 minutes, and then participate in some short Q&A with the judges (the team presentation materials and video to be posted soon).
Awards were provided by (1st place) Microsoft (Kinects and Windows Mobile 7 phone), (2nd place) Museum of Science and Industry (yearly subscription packages), (3rd place) Museum behind-the-scene passes, KeyLimeTie via Peter Morano (gift certificates, all levels), and Artisan Talent via Veronica Ludwig (gift certificates, all levels). Thanks to all our sponsors for this event, including popChips. And special thanks to CNA Insurance, our event facilities host, that also provided 2-days of food to the attendees to keep them charged up.
The following summarizes the work completed on the 6 Chicago projects.
Each project had a talented and diverse set of team members. Our hackathon participation was also 35% women, higher than than 20% target for the global RHoK events. A particularly special moment was that some members of the Chicago CERTs team also attended to seed one of the teams and a local partnership was forged. Here are the summaries of the Chicago projects and the winners:
USAR – Urban Search and Rescue (1st place):
This team developed a set of technologies to assist urban search and rescue teams in the data collection and gathering of important information that is part of the urban search and response INSAGAG methodology. As USAR teams search a building, a spray painted marking system is used to provide key information data points about that search, including data, agency, number of people, and conditions. This information is often then manually transcribed on paper to be collected centrally site later. Problems with data quality, completeness, timeliness, etc., can result in delays in response, and impede overall situational awareness reporting for coordinating efforts. This team developed an mobile phone app to assist in the capture of data points, including the location, team, and a picture of the searched-site, can work in unconnected or connected mobile mode with cached maps, and data ultimately is uploaded to a central server where it can be further transcribed and decoded. This was developed on Android mobile phone, with google app engine as the server, and will be made open source. (Team members: Alissa Feldman, Sonia Franckel, Eugenia Gabrielova, Kelly Knight, Dan Krol, and Francesca Slade). USAR team project presentation. (Presentation video to be added later)
I’m OK, I’m not OK Next Gen (2nd place):
This team worked on an existing problem statement which they took in a new direction, regarding how to report your status after a disaster or crisis, and provided a new perspective to its applicability. The target audience is for friends and family after a disaster, NGO relief aid providers, Incident Command Response crews (like CERTs), college students, or DOD contractors. Developed as a mobile application, for both Android and Windows Mobile, it allows you to predefine on your mobile device a set of contacts, and methods, for notification ‘in an emergency’. Configuration of notifications of IM OK, or IM NOT OK (and what type of help needed or condition reported) are provided, and ‘beacon signal’ which help can be sent, with a guaranteed delivery mechanism. This solution also delivered a web-app interface which simulated the mobile app, and allowed for extended system administration. The application will be converted into an opensource platform. (Team members: Min Maung, Lwin Maung). IMOK team project presentation, and demo. (Presentation video to be added later)
Person Finder (3rd Place):
Person Finder was developed in response to Haiti earthquake to assist families with both finding a missing person, as well as reporting information about a missing person. Its main goal is to help with family reunification. Since then, this platform has been adopted by Google, and used to assist in Chile and Pakistan crisis, and has since been made opensource. The Chicago team further extended this platform in two ways: The first was to further extend the full-text search and indexing capabilities of the google appengine platform to address some limitations, so that searching on various attributes can be achieved, resulting in higher probability of matches. A second track was the twitter (robot) interface, which allowed the person finder application to leverage twitter search results about ‘named people’ into their platform via an api and webapp, to assist in ‘finding’ people in a disaster. (Team members: Alice Bonhomme-Blais, Ross Helfin, Chen Li and his UCI Students, Will Robinson) PeopleFinder team project presentation. (Presentation video to be added later)
CERTs Sahana Platform:
Community Emergency Response Teams are locally trained and certified citizen volunteers who can help their emergency response agencies in support of a crisis or emergency event. The RHoK solution is a regional, cross-jurisdictional operational and response management system, which creates a central registry of CERT team volunteers, across cities. Additionally, the solution assists with the operational disaster response reporting to the incident commanders for volunteer task management, and assists with volunteer deployment in a regional area based on registering volunteer geo-locations, as opposed to per-jurisdiction registration. Allows for more regional flexibility in the deployment of these volunteers. They leveraged the Sahana Eden opensource platform to build their solution, and collaborated with cities worldwide for Sahana community expertise, as well as direct team collaboration of the Chicago CERT teams. (Team members: April Hann, Laura Lanford, Rich Frizelis (CERT), and Avni Khatri, Miguel Colon, Malveeka Tewari, Mike Ewing, Natalia Vinnik, Nico Preston, Prince Rehman Manjee, Ted Freeman) . Cert team project Presentation. (Presentation video to be added later)
Mossaic – Landslide Risk Prediction and Reduction system:
Their solution built a platform to enable local crowdsourcing of landslide data collection to inform risk decision making in new construction, and other applications, for landslide risks, particularly in developing areas where data is unlikely to have been collected. Their platform, developed to be open source, allows groups to create projects for the collection of landslide risk factors, including susceptibility to landslides based on slope, hazards, and other variables. Information about communities is gathered, including geo-located data, and this data is centrally collected and validated, the upload and verifiability of data is built into the solution, enabling better data quality. They worked with a Civil Engineer, Anna in St. Lucia during the RHoK event to gain real time user feedback on how this data will inform decision making for new construction to help reduce future landslides in developing areas. (Team members: TBD). Mossaic team project presentation. (Presentation video to be added later)
Open Data project – use of NASA aerial data:
The use and promotion of Open Data streams to assist with solving problems around disaster risk or response was a theme throughout the RHoK event. The Chicago team analyzed a data set previously made open by Nasa containing aerial imagery, and assessed it’s applicability in disaster management, including identifying pre-event conditions, assessing extend of impact, and assisting in developing a birds-eye strategy for disaster response. They created data retrieval interface strategy for retrieving this large data set from the Nasa MODIS system, pulled subsets of imagery ‘tiled’ data into a tile server, and created a visualization of this data in both a traditional and mobile web interface, using the Open Layers open source platform, to be displayed in a user friendly manner, and where the user can interact with this data, in before and after scenarios, and can drill down and capture. This team collaborated with a subject-matter-expert from Nasa on the open data set, and some folks on OSM. (Team members: Matthew Rocklin, Miftachut Ekasetya, Michael Miranda, Chris Lubinski, Ji Lucas, Tomas G. Besore) OpenData team project presentation. (Presentation video to be added later)
CrisisCommons/CrisisCamps – Want to Continue the Journey Chicago?
I’m Deborah Shaddon, the Chicago RHoK event organizer, and a core member of CrisisCommons, and have run or participated in several CrisisCamps in and from Chicago, including in response to Haiti, Chile, Nashville Floods, Oil Spill, and Pakistan Floods, through my CrisisCommons community. Like most everyone else that attended, I am a volunteer with a (separate) full-time job, and coordinate these efforts in my free time. Even though it is hard work, I feel lucky to be part of RHoK and CrisisCommons.
CrisisCommons and RHoK are partners with similar ideals and missions, to unite volunteer technology communities and response organizations to solve problems and apply technology innovation to disaster and crisis response, and ultimately, alleviate human suffering. RHoK focuses on a series of hackathon ‘events’, geared to unite folks and foster innovation in small sprint events, whereas CrisisCommons, and the CrisisCamp events, seek to build long term sustainable relationships with the volunteer technology communities (including RHoK), response organizations and NGOs, promote a research-based agenda of technology applicability in a disaster, and foster ongoing and long term community and partnership engagements.
In this way, CrisisCommons and the many volunteer technology communities that participated in RHoK (including Sahana Foundation, Open Street Maps (OSM), Ushahidi, Frontline SMS, Geeks Without Borders (GWOB), Code4Crisis, Humanity Road, etc.), compliment and collaborate with each other. CrisisCommons seeks to unite and connect all these communities through a ‘commons’ mele (ala CreativeCommons, GeoCommons, ScientificCommons), for crisis and disaster response technologies in an ongoing, and sustainable way, through a series of CrisisCamp events, more barcamp than hackathon, which bring local cities and the global community together to provide education on open crisis and disaster technologies (so we, as technology volunteers, can be informed and ready to respond), and promote a dialog between partners. And in the event of a disaster, we are able to mobilize our technology CrisisCamp community to work on a specific event technology response efforts, often through crowdsourcing and other informational data-collecting technology support.
If you want to stay connected to this community and have a local voice that is tied into the global community, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or twitter: @CrisisCampCHI, @CrisisCamp, @CrisisCommons, or join our ‘CrisisCamp Chicago’ facebook group.