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Hackathon Results Could Bring New Ways to Keep Syracuse Streets Clear of Snow

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Who knew crunching data might result in better ways to keep Syracuse streets clear of snow? The City of Syracuse announced the winners of this year’s Plowing through Data Hackathon Wednesday. The city partnered with AT&T and Syracuse University’s iSchool to call on the community to analyze Syracuse’s snowplow data and create new technologies to better manage the snowfall. Mayor Ben Walsh says they weren’t making the most of the data collected by the plow’s GPS software.

"The good news was I could see the little dots moving around, so I knew where the plows were, but I couldn't tell where they had been. And so if somebody said a plow hasn't been on my street I either had to reach out to DPW and track down the actual plow driver to find out whether or not they had or Sam [Edelstein, Chief Data Officer] about 24 hours later when they had taken all the data and updated all the maps accordingly."

Dean Olin and Alex Sinfarosa took first place with a project that lets the City see when roads were last plowed. Olin says he and his partner decided to analyze data in four day chunks.

Credit Chris Bolt / WAER News
Hackathon winner, Dean Olin, with Mayor Ben Walsh

"We decided to just have a slider on the top where you could drag the slider across every two hours and see, get a visual representation, on the roads of how long it has been since the plow was on the road. So the thresholds, there is green, orange and red, depending on how long the plow has been there, obviously red is the plow hasn't been there in over 24 hours."

Olin says it was designed mainly for DPW staff.

"I see it more as sort of a visual dashboard, as one purpose. And also for if a resident calls up and says 'hey every time it snows it's like 24 hours at least before somebody gets to my road.' So they can look back and they can move the slider and see yeah this person is right, we always leave that neighborhood for last, maybe we can mix up the routes, we'll do that neighborhood first next time."

Olin says the city hasn’t yet committed to using their idea, but he and his partner took home $3,500 in prize money.

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.