By: Urja Patel | Estimated reading time: 2:00

Congratulations to University of Waterloo students Andrew, Kevin and Franco for winning second place at this year’s Esri Canada GIS Centers of Excellence Competition (ECCE App Challenge)!

The App Challenge is a competition held by Esri Canada to promote innovation and creativity. Each year three members form a group and are tasked to create an app within a week using Esri technology and open data to help solve real-world problems related to a specific theme.

Andrew, Kevin and Franco are a team of students from the Faculty of Environment and the Faculty of Math who collaborated under the team's name Code Monkeys. They created the app MetroBooming to aid developers, planners and policymakers to gain a better understanding of Vancouver’s urban expansion and housing crisis.

“The challenge was a fun last project at Waterloo, built together with my closest friends,” says Franco Chen in the Faculty of Mathematics.

Through 3D visualization, the app helps people understand the root causes of Vancouver’s unaffordability using population and dwelling census data. MetroBooming allows users to visualize and compare potential outcomes, from the best-case scenarios where the number of new housing units is maximized to scenarios where the status quo remains unchanged.

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“The ECCE App challenge gave me an opportunity to combine my three passions, geography, statistics and urban planning, into creating an interactive application which shows how urban policies can have an impact on housing,” says Andrew Ding in the Faculty of Environment achieving a geomatics degree with a joint honours in mathematics.  

Their collaboration shows what is possible when students from different fields and interests intersect.

“Vancouver is not unique when it comes to unaffordable housing, as this is happening in many communities across the country,” says Kevin Lu in the Faculty of Mathematics. “I hope to inspire other young Canadians to be aware of housing affordability.”

The team will graduate this June and it’s no surprise they have exciting plans in their future. Andrew will be starting a Masters in Data Science at ETH Zurich this fall to expand his toolbox for analyzing geographic information. Meanwhile, Franco is starting a job as a software engineer at Google and Kevin is starting a job as a software engineer at Frec, a fintech startup.

Visit MetroBooming’s website for more information about Andrew, Franco and Kevin’s app.

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