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Two McCormick Apps Finalists in ‘Apps for Metro Chicago’ Contest

UPDATE: The InThirty and Trallblaze teams took third and fourth place, respectively. Congratulations to all the students involved: Graduate students John Rula and Ted Stein, and undergraduates John Hudson, Shiva Rao, and Brian Lange.

Getting around Chicago can sometimes be a little tricky for both visitors and locals alike, but two apps developed by McCormick students, alumni, and faculty aim to make traveling in the city a little easier.

Developed as entries for the Apps for Metro Chicago contest, “Trailblaze Chicago” by McCormick’s Aqualab and “Chicago InThirty” by alumni-founded Datascope Analytics have been selected as finalists in the transportation category.

The contest is a first-of-its-kind collaborative effort between the government and software developers to create apps that will improve the daily lives of Chicagoans. The City of Chicago, State of Illinois, and Cook County all contributed data sets that were made available to the app development teams.

“Data belongs to the people, and there is an enormous desire on the part of residents to participate in government and find ways to contribute,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “This competition will allow them to create innovative solutions and experiment with applications that can make all of our lives better.”

Fabián Bustamante, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science and head of AquaLab, and his students created the app “Trailblaze Chicago,” which is designed to help bikers living in the Chicago area by showing city officials where new bike paths are needed most. The app anonymously records the paths taken by the users (who can review the routes they've taken), which will give Chicago city planners the data needed to decide where to construct the new trails. The app also features a handy dashboard that allows users to see their speed, distance traveled, and location. 

Datascope Analytics is a data-driven consulting and design company founded by McCormick alumni Dean Malmgren and Mike Stringer (both of whom received their PhDs in 2009). With their McCormick co-op student Brian Lange, they created, “Chicago InThirty,” is an interactive way for Chicagoans to explore the city. It uses Google maps to show parks and restaurants in the area so users can see their options while visiting a Chicago neighborhood. For example, the app can calculate the park acreage that is accessible within 30 minutes or less from any point by a particular mode of transportation. The overall park accessibility for each Chicago neighborhood is the mean of the park acreage scores for all grid points within that neighborhood.

A reward will be given to the apps that receive the most votes on the Apps for Metro Chicago website in each category. Voting closes Friday, Aug. 26. Visit the Apps for Metro Chicago contest website to vote for the apps. Voters must first register and then select the three apps that they would like to see win.

- Matt Dalzell