Water shortage and drought is a serious problem in California. One of our team member's, Carlo Liquido, is very passionate about the topic, and our team wanted to take this hackathon to make a positive difference.

What it does

We created a visualization website to raise awareness; we wanted the public to be fully cognizant of the magnitude of the problem, the source of the problem, and what they can do about it. Our website tells a compelling story and links to a Facebook Messenger chatbot named Oasis.

Our chatbot, Oasis, chats with users and allows users to take meaningful steps to ameliorate the drought problem. Oasis prompts users to sign a petition, donate to the cause, and connects them with relevant organizations/non-profits. She is the world's first chatbot to allow users to sign petitions.

How we built it

We used Greensock to animate relevant stories, data points, and images. We used Node.js and the API package to allow users to sign petitions via the chat interface. We used existing data from the major climate organizations such as United States Drought Monitor to tell the severity of the Drought. We used materialize package to easily format the HTML website and to display in a compelling format. We leveraged open soure code. We used Plotly, a JavaScript library to make a 3D model of California's sinking problem. We used GRACE satellite imagery NASA data to show how much California is sinking. We used preprocessing in python and conducted our data analysis in Matlab.

Challenges we ran into

Because we were creating a unique and original chatbot, we couldn't find good documentation or debugging support online for our specific problems. Because we wanted to use different visualization techniques to tell our story (3D modelling, animation, dynamic visualization, interactive visualization), our team members all worked on different techniques of visualization. Therefore, often one team member could not directly help one another.

We were hacking without much sleep, so by 4:30am it became harder to articulate a clear and crisp story when we got additional data/research.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We created the world's first petition chatbot on Facebook messenger. Once the chatbot becomes approved by Facebook, it will go live in 2 days. We hope that this encourages non-profits to leverage our chatbot to be able to reach out to people through an ecosystem that they are already a part of. This chatbot will allow petition owners to connect to people across the globe via easy to use, conversational interfaces.

Furthermore, we are very proud that our visualization and analysis prompts users to act immediately. Often analysis and visualization awareness pieces fall short of making real change because it lacks the most important step: the call to action.

What we learned

We were amazed by how much we can get done in a quick time frame if everybody is on the same page. We created an outline of the story early on, and spent a good amount of time aligning people's viewpoints. After we created the detailed outline, we had minimal communication and project management problems.

As we researched the project, we became much more aware of the severity of the problem that California is facing. We were also shocked by the lack of data to manage underground water in California.

What's next for Drought in California

Once Oasis goes live on Facebook on Monday, we plan on hosting the website. We plan to reach out to non-profits who would want to leverage our Visualization Work and Chatbot capabilities. We will get the word out regarding our website, so that we can first get our friends and family to become involved in the initiative and the petition.

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