7th August 2014

Developers use OS mapping data at the Festival of Code

Luke Hampson

In a recent blog, we shared news about how our Innovation team had teamed-up with The Cathedral Innovation Centre and Totton College, to support the sixth – and most successful to date – Young Rewired State (YRS) “Festival of Code”. We thought we’d share a little news with you, covering what happened during this week-long hackathon for under 18’s.

Over 1,000 young people took part in the event by attending one of the 61 regional centres located throughout the UK – Totton College been one of them. Here, on the Monday morning, we were joined by six extraordinarily bright and enthusiastic young people – all keen to learn more about coding.

Young Rewired State - Festival of Code logo

At the outset, the young coders were shown a video by the YRS organisers, where they were tasked to complete a project of their choice. The only proviso being that each venture had to incorporate at least one piece of open data. We shared information about the number of datasets available through both the OS OpenData and Data.gov portals and also signposted them to the GeoVation PowWow output that we’ve produced to date. This information provided a perfect launchpad, and before long, everyone was thinking of ideas about how they could use location data as an ingredient for an application they could build.

Two teams formed to work on separate projects. The first team decided to build a web application called “Shout”. Shout aimed to provide an online heat map that would allow citizens to report (or shout!) problems, such as crime, health and environmental issues, to their Local Authority, asking for action to be taken. As more and more citizens report the same problem, the relevant area of the map would turn from green to amber and eventually to red – subsequently alerting the Council to act.

So, how did the young developers use OS mapping data? Our technical team mentored the Shout team by guiding them through our free Web Map Service – OS OpenSpace. This included implementing a geo-search function as well as enabling the ability for users of the app to place markers on the map – using the OpenLayers drawing capability. We also showed the team how to create the heat map ‘on the fly’ – using Leaflet – which is an Open-Source JavaScript Library that can be used for incorporating mobile-friendly interactive mapping functions.

 

Screenshot of the 'Shout' app

The “Shout’ team used OS OpenSpace to create an online tool that helps citizens report problems to their Local Authority

 

The second team embarked upon developing a video game – using an open source development environment called ‘Unity’. Our technical team showed the team how to incorporate some of our height data – OS Terrain 50 – into the project, creating a real depiction of the lie of the land, within the game. This was possible through translating the data from ASCII grid tiles into an image format, and then into a .raw format – all using free online image converters. The .raw file could then be loaded into the game software – creating a virtual reality.

 

OS Terrain 50 data for Exeter

The image above depicts the OS Terrain 50 data for the Exeter area, which the team incorporated into the game they created.

 

We wrapped-up a productive week on Thursday afternoon, with the young people then travelling down to Plymouth for the grand-finale, where they pitched their work to a judging panel and over a thousand other participants. They did really well, with the “Shout” team successfully sailing through the first heats, but not quite making the semi-final!

 

Group shot of mentors and participants

A group shot of the YRS participants, mentors from Ordnance Survey and supporters from the Cathedral Innovation Centre and Totton College

 

You can see some of the tweets that were posted throughout the week by taking a look at the #TCYRS hashtag.

Well done to all involved!