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Code for Philly and Think Company took on this cancer data project for MLK Day

Whole lotta coding going on. January 20, 2017 Category: FeaturedMethodShort
Volunteers from a nonprofit civic hacking brigade, a tech consultancy and a biological research arm of an Ivy League institution spend the entirety of Martin Luther King Jr. Day together in a room working on a cancer research project.

As much as it might sound like the treatment for a killer David Fincher film, that was how Code for Philly, Think Company (formerly Think Brownstone) and Penn’s Greene Laboratory observed the holiday. Civic technologists, designers and researchers put their heads together this past Monday to make progress on an open source initiative called Project Cognoma.

Launched by Code for Philly, Greene Lab and DataPhilly, the project uses machine learning to help biologists predict the behaviors of cancer much like a meteorologist uses historical weather data to make a forecast. The objective, said Code for Philly’s Pat Woods, is to help researchers speed up their work.

The project was given a front end makeover (new wireframes, reorganized code and interface updates) by the end of the day. Woods said the day of service came together when folks at Think Company reached out to Code for Philly — that’s important.

“This was the first real instance of a company reaching out to us with a really structured way of working with a project,” he said.

Since the brigade’s founding in 2012, volunteers have been busy making relationships with local government and organizing civic hackathons. This event, a day devoted to working on a mission-driven project with a company and an institution, signaled new possibilities for forging relationships with the private sector.

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“Our relationships with private companies have almost exclusively been sponsorships,” Woods said. “Hackathons, weekly meetups, other forms of needs for funding. This was a first time thing for Code for Philly.”

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