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Geo:Code 2016 Projects

Here is a summary of the fourteen projects that were worked on and presented at the 2016 Geo:Code Twin Cities Code-a-thon.

AED Location Map

Seconds count when somebody has a heart attack. In the Twin Cities of 2016, we are often within feet of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), a simple to use device that can save the life of a person having an heart attack. Yet, we rarely know where the nearest AED is, and will lose valuable time searching for one when it is needed most. To solve this problem, and save lives, the AED Location Map team prototyped a simple to use, location aware map with two clear purposes - to tell you where the nearest AED is, and to empower you to add an AED to the map. This combination of life-or-death impact and clarity of focus led the AED Location Map team to be voted the People’s Choice Award Winner by Geo:Code 2.0 participants.

Cedarside Connect

Cedar-Riverside is a bustling, creative, diverse corner of Minneapolis. There are so many unique things happening in Cedar-Riverside, yet most neighborhood residents, let alone Twin Cities residents, have no idea. Cedarside Fly took on this problem with the intention of not only creating a tool to tell people what’s going on, but with a desire to create a true solution that represents the diversity and creativity of the neighborhood. Cedarside Fly spent the weekend deep in problem definition and design, creating paper prototypes of an app and a connected, interactive mural that will be found in the neighborhood. The team used these prototypes to get rapid feedback - including a session in the University of Minnesota’s Usability Lab - to quickly set scope in a big project and get user feedback early and often. With an idea shaped by local residents, and a team eager to partner with neighborhood organizations, Cedarside Fly is primed to build their vision.

Civic Voice

When it comes to representative democracy, Americans live in a land of confusing abundance. You are represented by at least a dozen offices, across a range levels and focus, from the President of the United States to your school board, park board, and water district representatives. If you’re like the average American, you have no idea who most of the people are who represent you, what they do, or how to contact them. Civic Voice validated that this is true, at least among Geo:Code 2.0 participants, with a quick survey to inform their work. From there, the Civic Voice team created a rapid prototype of a website that helps residents to find out more about who represents them, and gathered additional feedback. Discovering that much of the data on who represents you and does what is not available in a standard format - especially at the local level - the team also incorporated crowd sourcing into their vision, so we the people can help make our government easier to understand. Impressed with the scale and focus of this project, Geo:Code’s feedback panel presented it’s Judges’ Choice Award to Civic Voice.

Collaborative Road Construction

Delays due to road construction are always frustrating, especially since somebody somewhere has the information to help the public to avoid these delays. The Collaborative Road Construction team (a.k.a. the Orange Cone Heads) thought through how best to share this information on road closures and delays with the public, and explored what is preventing that from happening now. The team suggested that Waze provides a strong industry standard that Twin Cities governments should provide their data in. In doing so, multiple governments would not only provide data in a single format - thus making it easier to create a metro-wide tool, but they would also provide data in a format that is ready to integrate into already widely used traffic tools, including Waze. Step 1, however, is finding out which Twin Cities counties even have publicly accessible construction and delay data in any formation. As the Orange Cone Heads discovered while creating a story map of Twin Cities counties, several do not provide this data at all, or only provide a subset of data that could help the public when dealing with delays and construction.

CycleHack Twin Cities

CycleHack is a global movement that aims to connect people with their places by bringing community members together to reduce barriers to cycling. Last June was the first CycleHack Twin Cities: a hack day where people prototyped ideas like LED turn signal helmets and backpacks. A group met over lunch on Sunday to discuss a possible 2016 event. The idea that surfaced was a pop-up version of CycleHack that would appear at existing community events- such as Open Streets or Little Mekong Night Market - to do three things: ask people about what keeps them from biking, start getting people to brainstorm ideas to reduce those barriers they identified, and gather data about what we hear. By doing multiple events, we can build off of what we hear, modify our questions, and get even more useful feedback. The results of this ideation phase could then be used for another hack event to think about solutions that really target the barriers that our communities are facing. Email cyclehack@opentwincities.org to get involved!

Free Public Internet in Minnesota

Access to the Internet is vital in 2016. Without consistent internet access, a resident experiences a very different social, economic, and civic world. This is the Digital Divide. Despite it’s importance, and the numerous organizations that provide free, publicly accessible internet access, it can be very difficult to find free, public internet access. The Free Public Internet team set out to address this problem with a prototype mapping free internet access locations the team was aware of. Knowing there are a lot more locations where one can freely access the Internet, the prototype includes a form for submitting additional locations. The team also considered what information about these locations would be useful - including number of computers available, whether there is a WiFi password, and the bandwidth of the location - but found that virtually none of this useful information was available in any form of standardized data.

Is it Plowed?

In Minnesota, plows are awesome. They clear all that snow we get and make it possible to travel in the winter. It comes as no surprise that Twin Cities residents care a lot about whether their street has been plowed, or is going to be plowed. This is especially true during snow emergencies, when residents must be careful not to park on unplowed curbs lest their cars get plowed in, or towed. What is surprising is that most Twin Cities governments do not provide real-time plowing data to residents. This did not stop the Is It Plowed team from creating wireframes, and a working prototype, of an application that tells a user whether a plow has recently gone through their street, or will. Along the way, the team worked with plowing data from a few Twin Cities counties, discovering that even among governments that do make this data available, there is no standard data format. One of the team’s recommendations? That plow data APIs ‘speak Google’ - pick a standard that existing applications such as Google Maps can easily integrate into their existing applications.


There are a lot of tools out there to help you use data, present information, and quickly create useful solutions, and a hackathon is a great time to learn more about those tools. The Minnestory team did this by spending the weekend diving into ESRI’s Story Map tool - an application with a free tier that makes it easy for a user to combine maps, photos and text to tell a location based story. In learning more about this tool, the team put together use cases for different types of users, including teachers, community organizers, and prototype developers. The team also noted the need for better documentation for Story Map, and identified some best practices around getting images and geocoding them. Best of all, the Minnestory team worked with another Geo:Code team - Cedarside - to use this tool to help prototype a Geo:Code project.

MN Bikeways

The Minnesota Bikeways team returned to Geo:Code! This team formed at last year’s Geo:Code event and has since continued to work on their application for helping bicyclists to navigate the Twin Cities quickly and safely based on government data about bike paths and lanes. Building upon an existing project, the MN Bikeways team worked to flesh out new features and updates. For the bicyclist, the team worked on creating Android and iOS applications from a common code base using Ionic, as well as the ability for users to report obstructions and other issues they encounter while biking. For the maintainers of biking infrastructure, the team prototyped a municipal dashboard to display user reported issues.

Nile of the North

Urban agriculture is a national phenomenon and a great way to connect a community while improving access to fresh and health food. Members of the Nile of the North team have been working on urban farming initiatives for years in North Minneapolis and beyond. At the event, this team worked on ways to help the public to learn more about these initiatives, including the locations of programs and initiatives run by the nearly 80 community partners involved in urban food access in the Twin Cities. As part of this effort, the team found existing GIS resources to the team can use, and identified additional data that either should exist, or should be easier for the public to access. Most importantly, the team worked on a big project, and acknowledged that by productively come to consensus on vision and goals, and discussing plans for this ongoing effort.

O.P.P - Open Permit Process

Many new ventures or large events require filling permits through inconsistent, confusing, and error prone processes. Inspired from experiences in getting permits for neighborhood block parties, the Open Permit Process team (Super Mega Force) envision a world in which filling a permit application is as simple as answering an online form. Over the weekend, the team created a working prototype web site that does three things: helps the user identify what permits they need to fill out, provides form-fillable PDFs of those permits, and allows the user to use an online map to indicate any geographic boundaries that a permit might require. A slick and useful first step, OPP hopes to integrate their project with existing government websites, and to continue to modernize the government permitting process.

Service Design in Gov Toolkit

Service Design is a powerful methodology for designing holistic solutions for tough problems that, while widely used in European governments, is only now beginning to see adoption by American governments. There’s a growing body of literature out there that helps governments - or anybody - apply services design to the creation of solutions, but that literature tends to be 3 page overviews or 300 page academic analyze. The Service Design in Gov Toolkit team set out to create… a service design toolkit for government; a guided outline of the service design process with links and references to tools and processes that are useful in each step of the process. Applying some meta service design, the team created a persona of a typical user of the toolkit based on feedback from the many government employees at Geo:Code, drew prototypes of a website that will guide a user through a service design process, and gathered up service design processes and tools from across the internet to refer users to.

Team Opportunity

In the modern world, organizations and governments make decisions based on metrics. Team Opportunity knows there is a ton of data available, and they want to turn that data into metrics that can drive the development of opportunity, prosperity, health, and wellbeing in the Twin Cities. At Geo:Code, this team worked to identify just what datasets could be used to evaluate metrics, and worked on a prototype dashboard focused on the state of transit in Ramsey County. Starting with data from the American Community Survey, the team was able to put together data on where people live and work, where educational institutions are, and where planned transit corridors, to show the current and anticipated access residents have to jobs and education. Despite a strong set of data to start with, Team Opportunity wants more data, and is planning to meet with the Metropolitan Council, the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, and Ramsey County to figure out where more data can be found.

Twin Cities Meeting Spaces

Anybody who’s ever put together a public event knows that finding space can be tricky. While there are obvious and well know spaces for public events, such as public libraries, there are also dozens of less obvious public event spaces owned by private businesses and organizations. Plus, different spaces have different hours, amenities, and rates. Twin Cities Meeting Spaces wants to simplify the process of finding a public space, and is doing so by creating a database of known public event spaces. Using Drupal, the team quickly created a prototype site populated with meeting spaces at public libraries, a few map and list based ways to browse and filter this data, and a form for submitting additional spaces.

Why We Live Here / Civic Awareness

Every dataset has a story to tell - several stories in many cases. Data in their rawest form, as spreadsheets or lists or 0s and 1s, are not great at telling their stories. Visualizing data is a great way to connect people with data so they can understand what it really means, and the story it has to tell. The Why We Live Here team presented examples from around the world of innovative ways to visualize data and efforts to generalize the process of visualizing data. Double bookings and a lack of available data kept Why We Live Here from visualizing Twin Cities data. However, the team is planning to get together again and working on visualizing data around Capital Improvement Projects and performance data.