Science Hack Day NYC wrapped up with a grand finale Sunday night, when 12 teams presented their hacks. Judged by Beth Noveck, director of NYU’s Govlab, Steve Koonin, Director of NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress, and Tom Igoe, Professor at NYU’s ITP and co-founder of Arduino, the teams got five minutes each to strut their stuff.
Here are the results:
In the Science category, the Living Crystals project, by Rose Meacham and her team of physicists and software developers. The team made significant steps in the analysis of videos of two-dimensional crystals formed by microscopic beads that move under the influence of light, using both machine-based and crowdsourced techniques.
In the Technology category, the Desperate Housewares project, where Sheiva Rezvani and her co-programmer worked on an imaginative mashup between a curb alert tracker and a missed connections site for all those thrown-away objects on New York sidewalks that deserve a chance to find a new home.
In the Design category, Citizen Science Data Validation was the theme of a team-up led by Yasser Ansari, who combined his own citizen science initiative, Project Noah, with a platform for crowdsourced analysis of citizen science called Crowdcrafting, whose lead developer, Daniel Lombraña González, was also at the event. The result was a first step to classifying wildlife data using the crowd, so it can be more useful for researchers, too.
In the Social Impact category, Nick Johnson and colleagues impressed the judges with the deep thinking that had gone into their Life of Trash project. Based on a thesis project that Nick did at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Programme, ITP, the team had spent time working through the potential impacts of using Web technologies to expose what happens to trash to its producers – which means every one of us.
The Crowd’s Choice prize went to Windchimes, a team led by Ann Chen and Nick Wong, who built on their entry for the New York Reinvent Payphones Competition, with both neat hardware and nifty software to detect and send out alarm signals in the case of a nearby fire.
There were seven other worthy entrants in the final wrap-up, including: an educational iPad app called Lewis Dots, for teaching the fundamentals of chemistry. A hack to solve the tedious but important challenge of analyzing loads of electron microscopy images using crowdsourcing; a new site for massively open online education about citizen science; sensors for a dog collar to track a pet’s activity and monitor it’s health around the clock; a site called micromappers to help analyze and geotag data about humanitarian crises found in tweets; a new way to distribute computational tasks to laptop computers for simulating collisions in CERN’s Large Hadron Collider; an interactive diagram to help explain the standard model of particle physics.
And there were a multitude of other valuable interactions that went on during the two days of the event, the sort of stuff that occurs when you bring a diversity of people together rather than birds-of-a-feather. Examples include software that could automatically turn the the scrawled equations that scientists love to write on blackboards into neat computer typography; a plan hatched by biologists and science enthusiasts to measure the bacteria that travel on bicycles through New York and London; even first steps to a citizen science initiative for the Middle East.
Over 100 people came to the event, joined in the hacks, learned from the workshops and made contributions to science, big and small. Tracy Day and Brian Greene, founders of the World Science Festival, took to the floor at the end of the event, to salute the hard work of all the hackers who had participated over the two days, and who have collectively opened a new chapter in this city-wide festival of science. A chapter in which science for the public is neither a learned monologue, nor an earnest dialogue, but a hands-on collaboration with a practical goal.