Hacking for a Good Cause: KEL Members Receive Recognition For Application at Programming Event

The team working on the City of Houston Blighted Properties project. Photo by College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

The team working on the City of Houston Blighted Properties project. Photo by College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

HOUSTON –Two members of the Department of Entomology’s Knowledge Engineering Laboratory received an award during a recent event held for developers.

The five member team came up with a solution to help the city of Houston with improving an information system dealing with blighted properties during the annual City of Houston Open Invitational Hackathon in early June.

Reza Hosseini working on an application. Photo by Rob Williams

Reza Hosseini working on an application. Photo by Rob Williams

The team consisted of KEL members Reza Teshnizi  and Elvis Takow, as well as Biological and Agricultural Engineering grad student Rahuveer Modala City of Stafford staff member and former TAMU student Jonathan Farmer, and Frank Bracco, employee of the City of Houston. Their application “City of Houston Blighted Properties” was one of several winning entries that were selected during the competition.

The team’s goal for the project was to help the city to find a better way to deliver information to Houstonians about properties that may be deemed as blighted by the city. The prototype project features a special website featuring geographic information systems to help pinpoint the location, type of property, and which violations the property is being flagged for.

“The application allows citizens to gather information about Houston’s blighted properties, which are commercial or residential premises, which have been declared vacant, uninhabitable and hazardous,” he said. “The application also allows citizens and council members a more proactive way to see what’s going in their neighborhood.”

Takow said that the website is still in the prototype stage and still needs to have further testing and changes, as well as be reviewed by the city before it goes live.

Takow is a Ph.D. candidate from the Ecosystem Science and Management department and Teshnizi is a Master’s student in Computer Science.

The Hackathon event helps to engage developers, to help solve the city’s information technology problems through applications and help build the city’s overall technology infrastructure and expand its base into information technology to solve complex problems.

The event was sponsored by the Boniuk Foundation and was part of the National Day of Civic Hacking, which is an event to raise awareness of civic innovation.

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