For Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, Code for Philly partnered with Think Company on something new for us. We were able to get Project Cognoma into the company’s Philadelphia Think Space office in the historic Packard Grande Building to receive some Think Company help on the project’s front-end.
Project Cognoma is an open source project, which started in July of 2016, to create a web app for analyzing cancer data. They’re a community-driven philanthropic project that began as a collaboration between the Greene Lab, DataPhilly, and Code for Philly. And now with an assist from Think Company. They are extremely well-organized GitHub page lists their many contributors. The members of the project in attendance on MLK Day were Casey Greene and Daniel Himmelstein, both of Greene Labs, Benjamin Dolly, and Andrew Madonna.
Project Cognoma is using machine learning to help biologists with cancer research. Explained to me by Daniel Himmelstein, it seems similar to weather forecasting: Using algorithms to analyze empirical data, researchers will be able to better predict the behavior of different types of cancer cells. Their end-user won’t be the family doctor developing a treatment plan, but rather the researchers at the forefront of cancer research, helping them speed up simulations.
Started in Conshohocken ten years ago, Think Company, formerly known as Think Brownstone, has amassed an impressive list of clients by developing a process based on research and experience. But helping clients is not the only thing Think Company does. As a company, there is an emphasis on volunteerism and philanthropy. Every year, they allow for 2 days of paid volunteerism outside the office. This can be seen through their work with Broad Street Ministries and partnering with Not in Philly, another Code for Philly project.
Ian McPhail of Think Company approached us with the opportunity to have their staff volunteer their time and use their expertise to help one of our projects. Through their work with Greene Lab, DataPhilly, and Code for Philly, the Cognoma crew have built up a pretty impressive back-end. They were looking to turn their focus on the front-end of the project, and what better way to get that assist than by connecting with one of the area’s leading User Experience and Design companies.
The day began with a little getting to know each other. Project Cognoma explained their project’s objective and the work they have done so far. Think Company staff were able to ask questions and figure out how they would best be able to assist. Essentially, Think Company treated Project Cognoma as a client. Through the work of small, focused teams, the day was spent working on wireframes, code reorganization, and interface updates. Each team was able to present their work to their coworkers and David Himmelstein before submitting pull requests.
This was a pretty great win for everyone involved. Code for Philly was able to connect civic technologists with a private company, bringing together unique skill sets to collaborate and make a big impact in a small amount of time. Project Cognoma received expertise consulting on their user interfaces. Think Company designers and UX volunteers were able to spend the day using design thinking to fight cancer.