Breaking barriers for local climate action with open-source data

On May 11, University of Waterloo students were invited to participate in the GOODHack24 challenge held at Communitech in downtown Kitchener. The hackathon challenge offered a space for students to brainstorm, explore and develop innovative solutions at the intersection of open data, technology and local sustainable resources to support affected communities experiencing heat inequity.††

GOODHack24 was co-hosted by the City of Kitchener, Go Open Data (GOOD) and GreenHouse, a social incubator at United College.†

"Work-integrated learning opportunities are an essential part of a young person’s education journey," said Lily Viggiano, senior project manager at GreenHouse. "Investing in youth in experiences like this is not only skill building and networking for them; it is an opportunity for municipalities to recruit and retain high-calibre students entering the workforce. The open data department at the City of Kitchener shared this worldview from the jump and was instrumental in co-creating a reciprocal and enjoyable hackathon."†

As a leading institution in entrepreneurship, Waterloo empowers students to become early-stage inventors, by transforming their ideas into real-world solutions that can help address the world’s most pressing challenges. United College launched the GreenHouse Changemaker Labs program for students and community members who want to drive climate action while supporting the development of their entrepreneurial skills and mindsets with hackathons, design sprints and group volunteering.†

The City of Kitchener is projected to have an 11 to 18 per cent increase in the number of humid days that is more than 30 degrees Celsius within the next 10 years. The City of Kitchener is committed to empowering individuals to access their open-source data to engage in local climate action.†††

The GOODHack24 hackathon welcomed seven interdisciplinary teams, with 33 students from Waterloo, Conestoga College, Wilfred Laurier University and White Oaks Secondary School in Oakville, Ontario. They spent seven hours using open data to build solutions that inspire action to effectively address local heat inequity. Their solutions and climate action initiatives will be shared with community partners, municipal-level decision-makers, and subject-matter experts to support the mobilization of regional strategies.†

"At the City of Kitchener, we developed a tree equity map to identify areas that were in heat disparity because we wanted to understand that these are priority areas where tree canopy coverage could be improved," said Jason Goetz (BES ’09), a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) application specialist with the City of Kitchener.†

"The data from that experiment and a discussion of working together with GreenHouse led to this brilliant idea [of a hackathon]. We have all these issues and a lot of different initiatives that are about creating more sustainable, transparent and innovative communities, and so we wanted to tie those together and discover how we can use open data and these ideas and technologies to actually trigger action."†

The hackathon was hosted as part of the GOOD24 Conference , an Ontario-based event to learn more about open data and the future of technology. This year’s conference theme was on "Unlocking innovation together: breaking barriers and building futures".†

Solutions that inspire action to address local heat inequity†

PlanetProfit - $500†

PlanetProfit is a software program that encourages residents to take part in opportunities that combine community building and climate action initiatives. By developing their own green initiatives through PlanetProfit, residents can implement solutions based on local demands.††

Their economic incentives also connect people to ways they can save money. The team of Waterloo students aim to use the $500 in funding to scale their software and grow their outreach to support residents from other communities outside the city.†

The PlanetProfit team includes Faculty of Engineering students Milind Kumar, Humza Ahmed and Hossein Molavi, and Faculty of Mathematics student, Amin Mojtahed.†

HeatHive - Honorary Mentions†

The group of Waterloo students designed a solution centred around a discount program, HeatHive, which allows individuals living in affected communities to access more affordable resources to create green spaces around their community.††

The software program helps residents access discounts based on their address, so they can purchase seeds, plants and gardening tools to build their own green spaces. With each purchase, users will also get access to resources related to their items, including instructions and tips that residents can follow to become more sustainable.†

Their innovative solution uses technology to improve the local economy among the businesses and stores who offer discounts, while removing the financial barriers that low-income communities face as they combat heat stress.†

The HeatHive team includes Engineering students Ana Dimitrievska, AnaŽlle Youbissi, Jordan Leis and Ahmed Qazi.†

HydroCool Connect --†Honorary Mentions†

Four students from White Oaks Secondary School were awarded an honorary mention for their proposal of an artificial intelligence software that uses open data to assist low-income residents to locate nearby cooling systems.††

Using a mobile notification alert system tied to open data from the Environment Canada, Kitchener residents will know where and how to deal with heat stress. The HydroCool Connect team also developed a mini working prototype of a fan and misting tower that can be placed around the city to provide temporary heat relief for areas in Kitchener who are especially vulnerable to heat stress.†

The team included Gurteg Rekhi, Kanwar Jhattu, Rahim Rehan and Saihaj Kohli, and were the youngest students to participate in the hackathon challenge. The grade 11 and 12 students are keen on becoming future entrepreneurs and Waterloo students.

GreenHouse is able to offer work-integrated learning opportunities like GOODHack24 thanks to funding from the Business and Higher Education Roundtable.†

Bloomberg Youth Climate Action Fund†

During the GOODHack24 closing remarks, Viggiano announced that GreenHouse is partnering with the City of Kitchener in distributing Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Youth Climate Action Fund, a grant that will provide technical assistance and funding for youth-led climate initiatives.††

Residents, ages 15 to 24 years, are invited to submit their ideas for their own climate initiatives, where they will then receive funding to support with their design, production and governing process to initiate their climate solution within the city of Kitchener.†

Learn more about the Bloomberg Youth Climate Action Fund by visiting the City of Kitchener website.†

Interested in making social or environmental change’ Learn more about the GreenHouse Changemaker Labs program that drives climate action in Canada and supports work-integrated learning (WIL) through partnerships between smallto mid-sized municipalities and motivated youth. Visit the United College website to learn more about GreenHouse and their programs.†
Angelica Marie Sanchez