Last week RHoK and Geeks Without Bounds announced the first set of RHoK/GWOB Accelorator winners. Out of a variety of applicants, GWOB selected three hacks developed at the June 2012 RHoK events to take part in the first round of the RHoK Sustainability Project. Because of the interest in the Sustainability Project and impact the selected teams have the potential to make in their communities and beyond, we would like to take this opportunity to share these hacks in more detail.
WaterMe is a prototype web based application built to reduce the time and effort it takes to map water stress on plants in drought conditions. The problem definition proposed by subject matter expert Robin Wilson at the RHoK Southampton event aimed to create an operational Normalized Difference Water Index (NDWI). According to the team, "Droughts are an increasing global concern due to increased agricultural land-use pressures, rapidly increasing populations and the effects of climate change. One key effect of droughts is the reduction in water available to plants putting them under water stress. This is difficult and time-consuming to map at ground level, and it is therefore difficult to get a synoptic overview of water stress conditions in plants across a state, region, country or continent. Satellite imagery can be used to produce a product called the Normalised Difference Water Index, (NDWI) which uses a simple calculation to provide a measure of the water content in vegetation. This can then be combined with land cover maps (also available from satellite imagery) to predict the level of water content expected in the vegetation at that time of year, and then map anomalies, where negative anomalies will be evidence of water stress. At present, no operational NDWI product is produced from any satellite, and no products are available with NDWI taken through to water stress, so this would provide a new resource to a number of communities of users (including academics), as well as achieving developmental goals."
The code for WaterMe can be found at http://rhoksoton.github.com/WaterMe/.
The prototype of WaterMe created at RHoK Southampton was eventually split into two components: WaterMeFeeder and WaterMe. The WaterMeFeeder downloads MODIS tiles from the NASA FTP servers, processes them to reproject the data and calculate NDWI, removes clouds and water areas, and then stores the resulting points in a MySQL database. It is written in Python, and uses a number of libraries including GDAL, pyMySQL and NumPy. It is feature complete, well documented with comments, and shouldn't need much more work. WaterMe provides the API and user interface for the data. The API is written in node.js, and provides a number of functions to return data in JSON format. The user-interface uses 'Leaflet' - an open-source mapping library - to overlay data points on OpenStreetMap data.
You can view the entire project or get involved in the WaterMe project by visiting their RHoK Solutions page.
Started by four high school teachers in Central Texas, the 4TeachersProject submitted an innovative solution, The Desk, to combat some of the most critical issues facing teachers today. Originally divided in to three separate problem definitions (The Key, The Cabinet and The Lounge), the teams at RHoK Austin were able to combine forces to build one web-based application that met all three requirements. The result is a social network called the Desk, designed specifically to meet the needs of teachers and foster collaboration.
According to the 4TeachersProject website, "Currently, there is no central database from which teachers can source ideas for lesson plans. Sites currently found online are individually run, vary in quality and effectiveness, require a subscription, and/or don't provide peer editing or peer evaluation.The Desk will solve all of these problems while creating the first free community for teachers everywhere. Our goal is for The Desk to be the largest database of lesson plans available at no cost to teachers across the nation. The Desk will be a community for teachers to share ideas, teaching tools, best practices, and concrete models for how to be successful in the classroom. The Desk will start in Texas, but in the future we hope to launch nation-wide, in order to connect teachers everywhere, across America, to one another and to help raise the standards of teaching to a new level of consistency, quality, and innovation."
Developed at the San Francisco RHoK event, BioMedLink is a functional supply chain that can quickly link all web-connected users with a wide range of innovative, reasonably-priced devices well-suited to their needs means better health outcomes in low-resource settings. BioMedLink aims to bridge the gap between device innovators, end users, and those who fund, manufacture, and distribute biomedical devices in the developing world.
While still in the concept phase, this hack has the potential to impact a variety of communities and increase the access to medical care for all. According to subject matter expert and team leader Terry Mandel, "Improving health in the developing world, in particular, requires access to affordable equipment for translational research, diagnosis, and treatment. Currently, business acumen and connections, charisma, and serendipity play an outsize role in equipping users with devices. A functional supply chain that can quickly link all web-connected users with a wide range of innovative, reasonably-priced devices well-suited to their needs means better health outcomes in low-resource settings. End users want access to the best devices for their needs, so being able to source a wide variety of options and evaluate their suitability through user feedback are high priorities. Many clinics, hospitals, and labs in the developing world are now equipped — to whatever extent they are — with second-hand devices provided by charity-minded first-world physicians, institutions, NGOs, and others that may be outdated and ill-suited to their settings due to lack of reliable electricity, training, parts, supplies, technical support, or other requirements."
The entire RHoK community, sponsors and Core Team wish each of these teams the best of luck and look forward to seeing them take their hack to the next level. Stay tuned to the blog for regular updates on their progress.