Hacking for Western Mass.

We celebrated Open Data Day in Western Massachusetts, US, by picking up a project borne at Hack for Western Mass‘s  2013 summer hackathon for the National Day of Civic Hacking.

The project was proposed by Glen Ayers, the Regional Health Agent at thePublic Health Service of Franklin Regional Council of Governments. Our goal was to iterate on a prototype for mapping private well locations and put in place a system to combine existing State data with data verified and/or collected in the field via mobile or tablet.

Private wells are not legally required to be mapped in our State, maybe 5% are, yet some towns in our region rely 100% on wells for their residential and commercial water supplies. Not knowing the location of these wells can and does lead to contamination and obvious public health concerns. Read more in the project brief.

We met Saturday the 22nd, from 9 to 5, in the John W. Olver Transit Center in Greenfield, a beautiful new net-zero building, and key link and train stop along the backbone of the Pioneer Valley’s knowledge corridor. It was a fitting location to celebrate international Open Data Day.

With the aid of the caffeine of our own choosing and some tasty pastries (thank you Becky) our small group got quickly up to speed on the prototype and got cracking.

Working in small teams, we developed a system to bring new towns online based on the existing prototypes and datasets built out in the summer session and since. The system converts Excel files of Town data provided by the state DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) into a set of Google Fusion Tables for each town. We also built a process to update the Tables with new data as it becomes available from the State and a bridge to enter data directly into the Fusion Tables using Memento, an Android app, on a mobile device. We then produced a map with data from all towns in the system. The project is well documented on GitHub.

Here’s a sample map of current data based on our Open Data Day work (and some tinkering after).

The hope for the project is that this prototype can be proven viable for updating the State’s records for towns in Franklin County, and it becomes a model for eventually tracking this data state wide.

Joining Glen from FRCOG were:

We’re looking forward to seeing where the project goes and to maybe having another go this summer. The Hack for Western Mass crew is busy plotting.

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