1. Undergraduate applicants to City, University of London
  2. My hackathon experience with the Marine Data Exchange

My hackathon experience with the Marine Data Exchange

First year undergraduate MSci Computer Science student, Joshua Boddy, gives a review of his hackathon experience.

Background

One of the lectures that I took during the first two weeks of university really inspired me to look for opportunities like this – a Data Visualisation lecture that helped me look at different ways of relating data and appealing view and interfacing options.

I’ve always been engaged with computing and programming as well as having a passion for marine life. With a background in scuba diving and marine clean up, I can wholeheartedly say that I love the ocean and the wildlife within. When the opportunity arose to take part in the Marine Data Exchange hackathon, I seized it without a second thought because it combined two of the subjects I am most passionate about.

The purpose of this hackathon was to help break down the information available about our ocean into a more understandable and comprehensible structure, allowing for further research and development based on this data, and the expansion of our knowledge of our oceans.

Review

The event took place over the course of a working day, 9 to 5. We started out with a brief introduction to The Crown Estate and the work they do, as well as the event itself and what the goal was.

We were working towards making the data more comprehensible for any other parties that may want to engage with and use the data, either recreationally or for research. We were put into teams based on some of the skills we highlighted in our applications and I was put into a group that specifically focused on infographics and visualisation of the vastness and complexity of the data. I was put into a group with two other students from UCL and we began discussing ideas as to how we could create a clear picture of the data and the quantity of it stored. We deduced that the best method of visualising the information was a website with an application embedded into one of the pages that allowed users to interactively explore the data structure. We got to work, my part was to create and host the general website structure whilst the two other students were tasked with designing and creating the application.

I used a JavaScript framework called React that I had previously worked with in my Business Systems module and then linked it with Netlify (a free hosting platform for taking website code and displaying it on the web).

We eventually pieced together a functioning site based on our designs and embedded the app last minute before our time ran out. We were told that the ideas were what were important and so we presented an incomplete project as the application was not fully functional, however our work was received with great praise and gratitude from the representatives of The Crown Estate, who have since followed up asking for the code for the site and the application for them to develop further. We took our seats after our presentation had finished and saw other amazing projects done by teams working on different areas. A highlight of this was the seabird data investigation team who created an interactive infographic based on the migratory patterns of tracked seabirds, a colourful and interesting way to display some complex datasets and something that I will take away and apply in my own research here at City.

As the day came to a close, we moved outside to the balcony of The Crown Estate offices for some networking and drinks that allowed us to discuss further development ideas. I had a final word with my team alongside a thank you to those who put the event together, and headed off knowing that I had helped to further develop our understanding of the oceans that surround us.

Upon reflection, I am grateful to City for providing me with the opportunity to get involved by being a student. City has given me the technical support and guidance to further my own abilities and explore topics of my own interest, keeping me engaged and motivating me to program for the better.