Our inspiration stems from our backgrounds in working together for UNICEF: we saw firsthand how the UN had was able to quantify complex concepts such as measuring gender equality. Organizations like TechTogether are among the many that empower our community in unprecedented ways: many of us can agree that there is a need for this kind of push for gender equality in tech. We need people actively working towards bridging the gender gap in several aspects of our society but, can we all agree on what our end goal is? How do we measure the impact that our efforts have on people? These are all questions that the UN has a unique way of answering, but unfortunately, there are hundreds of yearly reports that the UN releases curated specifically towards policymakers. We wanted to represent real and critical data in a way that was easy for the average citizen to make meaning of, specifically in the context of gender equality as mentioned in the UN’s Sustainable Development Global Goals. So we thought what better way to show people this than to make this information more publicly available in a way that’s both interactive and educational.
We see our map as a simple and interactive way to engage citizens in understanding where we are as a society in terms of reaching the Global Goals for achieving gender equality. Simply by pressing a finger on the outline of a continent, someone can visually see aggregated data for all the countries in any given habitable continent within the context of gender equality.
We knew we wanted to incorporate some kind hardware component into our hack since we wanted to make a large scale impact (like putting up this touch-screen map in an airport, shopping mall, public place) so that everyday people passing by could interact with the map.
To accomplish a touch-sensitive map, we utilized Bare Conductive paint which, when it dries, becomes conductive and has the ability to send touch signals to the Raspberry Pi and Bare Conductive Touch Sensor board. We drew out the outlines of each of the six habitable continents in the world for users to interact with the borders. We used a Raspberry Pi for the inputs, which were six continents in our case. Once activated, the sensors will trigger the output on the UI based on the continent’s data. For this particular hack, we used static data since a lot of the UN data was based on the last available year.
Once we were able to connect the hardware to the wifi network and onto the computer, we needed a platform to show the data from the UN. We decided to utilize Swift/iOS and create an application that showed the data once the continent was pressed. We imported MQTT to receive messages from the Raspberry Pi and transfer the data into the apps user interface.
In order to aggregate the data, we were initially planning on data scraping the UN’s Sustainable Development website. However soon after, we came across the UN API with up to date (until 2017) data on topics including gender inequality. After parsing through the data on the CSV we were able to average the data per continent to get numbers for visual representation.
One of the biggest challenges we had was to sync the hardware to the software UI, which was more challenging than we initially anticipated it to be! Additionally, the raspberry pi was unable to connect properly to the TechTogether wifi network, so we had to utilize other sources. We decided to use a hotspot on a phone and that was able to correctly connect to the Raspberry Pi and the internet source used on the laptop. When it came to visualizing the data, we were initially planning to use the Matplotlib, but then came across Seaborn which is much easier to use! We definitely learned a lot about how to interact with hardware, art, and Swift/iOS.
Highlight of the weekend!
Getting the hardware and software to sync together, this was our first big project using conductive paint so we were so excited to see it come together!
Big thanks to Dan Rowe from Wayfair, for being such an incredibly great mentor for our project. Special shoutout to Professor. John Gallaugher from Boston College, who introduced the idea of bare conductive paint to students and for giving the opportunity to BC students to learn more about hardware.