Students Propose Apps and Infrastructure to Improve Life in the City of Hartford

‘The Digital Image of the City’ Course is Part of Trinity’s Community Learning Initiative

Hartford, Connecticut, December 22, 2015 – In the culmination of their semester-long study of “smart urbanism,” students in Trinity’s American studies course called “The Digital Image of the City” recently presented their proposals for mobile apps, websites, and infrastructure that could help improve the experience of living in or visiting the city of Hartford. The proposals brought forth at the end of this Community Learning Initiative course ranged from an app that offers a convenient way to find a new restaurant downtown to a citywide system of technology education centers.

​Standing, left to right: Andrew Fishman ’16, Madelaine Feakins ’16, Rick Naylor ’16, Dalton Judd ’16, Assistant Professor of American Studies Jack Gieseking, and Callie McLaughlin ’16. Seated, left to right: Molly Mann ’16 and Georgianna Wynn ’16.
Assistant Professor of American Studies Jack Gieseking said that all of the students developed creative ideas based on research, interviews with people in Hartford, and the use of geographic information systems (GIS) mapping. “These are innovative projects that could be done on a very small budget to create a lot of change working with communities in Hartford for the common good,” Gieseking said before the student presentations on December 14.

One theme of the presentations was how to connect people with resources, places, or events in Hartford. A mobile app proposed by Georgianna Wynn ’16 called Healthy Heartbeat would offer a map of where to find farmers’ markets and community gardens. “We live in a food desert here,” she said, referring to the term for an area with a lack of grocery stores and farmers’ markets.

Madelaine Feakins ’16 spoke about her idea for an app called Cheers to Hartford, which she likened to the guide Time Out New York. “Hartford has a population boom during the workday,” Feakins said. “The problem is the social and economic exit at night and on weekends.” The app would aim to encourage people to come downtown by offering information about local restaurants and bars. The app may also include a socialization aspect, she said, to build a greater sense of community.

Explore Hartford is an app for residents and nonresidents alike proposed by Rick Naylor ’16 in response to interview subjects who told him there is not a lot to do in the city. Naylor said the app could list local events to help combat a lack of awareness. “Hartford is really rich in culture and history and actually does have a lot to offer,” he said. “This could be a great way to bring consumers into Hartford.”

Madelaine Feakins ’16 explains the maps she used to create her proposal. Photos by Rita Law
Callie McLaughlin ’16 said she was surprised by how many of the children she spoke with identified areas they deemed unsafe when she had them create “mental maps,” which also often lacked any reference to museums. Her proposed Hartford for Kids app could provide children and parents in Hartford a convenient way to find family-friendly places and events. “They’re there,” McLaughlin said. “It’s getting them out there that’s the challenge.”

The Our Neighborhood mobile app or website envisioned by Dalton Judd ’16 would seek out stories from residents to help shape how they want their neighborhoods to be portrayed. He said it could help with crime prevention and bring communities together.

Two students conducted research focused on improving aspects of the city’s infrastructure. Molly Mann ’16 presented “A Commuter’s Dream: Streets without Traffic Congestion,” which calls for a reexamination of the traffic lights downtown to help improve the flow of traffic. Mann tracked a month of traffic accidents and plotted their locations using GIS. Redesigning the timing and technology of the lights could help reduce fuel use and make travel more efficient, she said.

Andrew Fishman ’16 advocated for creating accessible technology education centers in his proposal, “Learning to Read Technology: Crafting a Digital Literacy Infrastructure.” The centers would be in strategically-spaced locations in low-income areas for children without computer access at home, Fishman said. Students could learn crucial computer skills at these centers, which would operate beyond school hours.

Responding to the proposals by asking questions and challenging the students to explain how these concepts might be realized were Carol Clark, associate professor of economics and faculty director of the Community Learning Initiative, and Carlos Espinosa, director of Trinfo.Cafe and Partnerships for Community Learning.

For more information about Trinity’s Community Learning Initiative, click here.

Written by Andrew J. Concatelli