Today, the School of Information Studies (iSchool) at Syracuse University, AT&T, and the City of Syracuse held an event to announce the launch of a civic hackathon, Plowing Through the Data, powered by AT&T

The partnership between the iSchool, the City, and AT&T is the second community-based hackathon in Syracuse that encourages community involvement in support of solutions to City infrastructure issues. In 2016, the City and the iSchool worked with AT&T to run the Syracuse Roads Challenge that brought nearly 30 participants across 13 teams who worked on road quality datasets provided by the City.

The Plowing Through the Data hackathon makes data available from the City’s fleet of 37 snowplows. The plows, responsible for clearing some 400-plus miles of snowy City roads, have been outfitted with GPS tracking devices since early 2015.

Hackathon participants can use the data to create new applications and predictive analyses which could be used to help the City address snow removal issues and plan better for snow-related weather events.

Syracuse City Mayor Ben Walsh announced a snow safety plan just days after his inauguration last month, and has made issues surrounding snow removal an early focus of his administration.

“It starts with us. We’re excited to involve our community in not just the enforcement, but in the long-term solutions needed to improve the way we handle snow. A better snow plan can improve commuting, safety, and pride in our city,” said Mayor Walsh. 

“When the City makes data available to the public, people can see how the City works. For this challenge, when people see where snow plows go, they can help us work better, continue our conversations across platforms, and enable us to come together to tackle this challenge,” said Sam Edelstein 07 G’15, Chief Data Officer for the City of Syracuse and an iSchool alumnus.

“I’m excited that the iSchool will again be partnering with the City of Syracuse and AT&T by lending our expertise to the hackathon,” said Elizabeth D. Liddy, Dean of the iSchool. “Our faculty and students are deeply engaged in using data to address a wide range of issues, including the use of data for civic good. I am looking forward to seeing the solutions that all of the teams propose.” 

“AT&T is proud to collaborate with the City of Syracuse, Syracuse University and Mayor Walsh to provide this unique challenge to students and career technologists across Central New York to come up with innovative solutions to one of the region’s most disruptive winter challenges, snow,” said Marissa Shorenstein, President, Northeast Region, AT&T.  “This competition is a unique approach to showcase how technology and data can be used for social good and assist municipalities to address issues impacting their residents.  As a judge, I am excited to see what the talented local tech community creates to help the City of Syracuse utilize its robust open data platform to address logistical and safety issue associated with winter.”

Challenge Timeline

 The challenge is designed to engage technologists, designers, developers, and anyone else who is interested to use their skills for social good. No prior experience is needed to participate, and the challenge is open to anyone – students and community members.

Cash prizes of $3,500, $2,000, and $1,500 will be given to first-, second-, and third-place winners.


February 8:  

Plowing Through the Data, powered by AT&T launch and dataset made available.


February 15: 

Snow Safety Summit. The City’s Innovation Team will facilitate 4 different stations exploring issues around snow removal. Participants in the challenge are encouraged to attend to better understand the challenges that City residents want solutions to address. 6:00 – 8:00 PM at Dr. Weeks Elementary School (Cafeteria) –  710 Hawley Avenue, Syracuse.

Week of February 20:

Virtual Open Office Hours with iSchool faculty members. iSchool faculty members will be available online for virtual meetings and consultation with participants and teams about data and projects. Dates will be communicated to participants who register their teams.

March 1: 

Projects due by 11:59 PM.

March 7:

Winners will be announced at a public ceremony at the iSchool with officials from the City of Syracuse and AT&T present.


More Information

Challenge details, instructions, a signup form, and downloadable dataset files are available online at the iSchool’s website: