Mozilla Science Lab on the Road: Yack/Hacking at Hive Chicago Buzz

This past week-end, the Mozilla Science Lab-mates traveled to Chicago for Hive Chicago Buzz, the second-annual event hosted by Mozilla’s Hive Chicago Learning Network, aimed at activating projects that solve problems in education. Spanning two venues in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, the Jan 22-23rd event included a kickoff evening with lightning talks from local Chicago education partners, and a full hack-day with morning workshops and afternoon project work-sessions. For those unfamiliar with Mozilla Hives, they function as parts of the Mozilla Foundation, much like the Science Lab, but with a more regional focus and with an emphasis on supporting educational networks that link standard and alternative learning in a honeycomb of city-based programs. The Hive Buzz is one among many events they sponsor to build their network.


There were some great talks by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, the Chicago Public Library, and reps from various education programs in Chicago schools, and perhaps what was most interesting, was the amount of science! The event drew participants from the Adler Planetarium, the Chicago Academy of Sciences, the Science Chicago – Life’s a Lab organizing crew; it featured a inter-generational crowd of students, educators, and service providers with peripheral if not direct backgrounds in physics, chemistry, and the arts.


For our part, the MSL helped with setup and some on-site logistics, and hosted a 90-min workshop and 4-hour work-session on mapping education/participant data for the Hive networks. We tackled questions like “where are areas of need or neglect for educational programs?,” “what census and demographic data might help us understand the communities that our programs serve,” “how does travel to educational institutions affect attendance?,” “where are the most advantageous locations to host community events, and how can we publicize those hosting locations to the network?.” After a morning workshop on open source mapping tools, we built a solid team of nine Hive members and visiting helpers who worked to define some goals and build some mapping prototypes. 


After some moderate struggles with weak internet, we split our team into task forces of specialized roles: some of us collected relevant data to apply to our maps (locations of libraries/schools, population distribution, census tract info), some of us worked on the routing and distance calculations to determine travel time between event sites on public transport, some of us worked on the visual schema for the resulting visualizations. For offline work, we discussed the use of Stamen’s Field Papers to collect data with kids on the ground, and bring it back to some web-maps for study and processing.


You can check out some of our travel-time prototypes (demoed with travel-time distance to the Adler Planetarium and the Peggy Norbert Nature Museum) as well as our mapping workshop materials in the links below. 

Special thanks to Stuart Lynn of CartoDB, and David Bild of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum for their help in facilitating our session and gathering session materials, and to all coordinators of Mozilla’s Hive Chicago Learning Network for organizing such a fantastic event.