Recap: Urban Sustainability Apps Competition

| Adam J. Hecktman


Last weekend, I had the good fortune of being a judge for the Urban Sustainability Apps Competition. Created and run by the Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago, this event provided an interesting twist on your typical apps competition and/or hackathon. If you haven’t been to one, hackathons are a great place for like-minded individuals to get together over a period of a time (in this case a weekend), think about a problem, and apply their technical skills to addressing it.

However, hackathons, even those in the civic space, have a reputation of often lacking in a good framing of the problem they are trying to solve. In the case of the Urban Sustainability Apps competition, the CNT brought to the table community activists and leaders. These are the people who have a solid understanding of the problem space. They were paired with social entrepreneurs and developers – those that have a strong interest in working directly with Chicago’s neighborhoods to make them greener, healthier, and more economically vibrant.

The result was a blending of minds who built tools that help track and fight blight, improve the environment, address urban food issues, and connect people with job needs, health needs, services, and education with resources. In the end, the judges had a tough time. The solutions were judged on the following criteria:

• Does it help get its target community greener, more livable, and/or more affordable?

• Is this a real collaboration between tech folks and community leaders

• Is the solution new or particularly effective?

• Were the demo and presentation well-executed?

• Is there market and funding potential?

While almost all of the submitted solutions met the criteria, one solution stood out. Chicago Green Score took first place (and walked away with free Azure services, an MSDN subscription, and all the Microsoft Developer Tools that they could possibly use). By answering a couple of questions and submitting your address, Green Score rates the “greenness” of your habitat using their algorithm that includes variables around energy usage, water reclamation, etc. It provides a map to show you where there are urban farms, green space, farmers markets, Divvy Bike locations, even environmental hazards.

Built specifically for the competition, this site will be useful for those who are specifically targeting where to live or locate their business, as well as those who are looking to “green up” their own neighborhoods. Hat tip to the team of Tom Greenhaw, James Hollis, Curtis Witek, Kelsey Pudluck, Joe Clay, and Tom Greenhaw Sr who developed the solution. Pictures from the event are below:

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Adam J. Hecktman

You may recognize Adam. He’s a regular on TV, you can hear him on the radio, he’s penned numerous articles and is the co-founder of the Chicago City Data Users Group. But some of Adam’s most important work is done behind the scenes in his role as Microsoft’s Director of Technology and Civic Engagement for Chicago. Tech giants, universities and government leaders turn to Adam for guidance on all matters technology, and he happily obliges, helping Chicago overcome challenges and capitalizing on new, exciting opportunities.