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Esri Names Climate Resilience App Challenge Winners

Developers designed free apps that use public geospatial data to help users make eco-friendly choices.

San Diego, Calif. — GIS firm Esri named three winners of its 2014 Climate Resilience App Challenge during a Monday keynote at the company’s annual users’ conference in San Diego. Participants in the challenge designed free apps that use public geospatial data to help users make eco-friendly choices.

Esri founder Jack Dangermond joined Under Secretary Kathryn Sullivan, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Esri product manager Bernie Szukalski to announce the winners on stage.

The winners are:

  • 1st Place: Minnesota Solar Suitability Analysis, which allows users to select the best places to install solar panels. Seven students at the University of Minnesota designed the app as a project in the university’s Masters of Geographic Information Science degree program.
  • 2nd Place: FloodForecast, which texts alerts to citizens who are in locations that are in danger of flooding. The app was designed by a Colorado-based team.
  • 3rd Place: Save the Rain, which allows users to search maps for their rooftops, analyze the surface shape, and see how much rain they could collect in a year. Developer Mark Laudon, of British Columbia, designed the app to promote water conservation.
Esri launched the contest this spring, in support of the White House Climate Data initiative, to promote the use of the company’s GIS data to create apps. The company said winners would be awarded more than $15,000 in prize money.

Winners told Government Technology that challenges and hackathons are good reasons to get to work.

"It'll stir up those developers who are sitting in their basements," Laudon said. "They want to just do something for fun. They might not do it as a job or whatever, but it's a great opportunity."

Chris Martin, one of the students who designed the Minnesota Solar Suitability Analysis tool, said technology professionals love challenges that give them opportunities to flex their creative and engineering muscles.

"Tech people are driven by challenges like this. It doesn't matter that there's prize money or anything like that," he said. "It's the pride of, 'Can I put this together? Can I be successful? Can I make this work?'"

Martin and his colleagues from campus were already designing a solar-focused project as part of their school work when they heard of the challenge and adapted their focus for it.

"When we heard about the contest, we thought, 'That's the perfect place to showcase the data that we've put together,'" said Devon Piernot, another one of the team members.

Hilton Collins is a former staff writer for Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines.