Students develop app to monitor Staten Island deer population
Updated May 2, 2019; Posted Apr 18, 2019
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A team of students from the Marsh Avenue Expeditionary Learning School, New Springville, won second place in a citywide hackathon competition for a proposed mobile app that focuses on reducing the booming deer population on Staten Island.
City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza announced the winners of the Computer Science for All Hack League Final on Wednesday. About 130 students in 28 teams spent the day building their projects and presenting to a panel of guest judges and City Council members.
“The Computer Science for All Hack League gives our students a meaningful and fun way to apply computer science skills to issues that matter in their communities,” said Carranza. “The competition is a creative way to drum up excitement for STEM while increasing equity in computer science learning and civic engagement.”
Five students in the Marsh Avenue Expeditionary Learning School team, dubbed the Biogramming iDeers, won second place in the intermediate school category for their proposed “Oh, Deer!” mobile app.
“The goal was to find a local problem, back it with data and try to solve it,” said teacher Francesco Portelos. “They [the students] want to educate the public and help by building safe water barriers at the Staten Island/New Jersey border to reduce the influx [of deer].”
The mobile app was created to help New York City as it continues to battle the booming deer population. The city announced it is looking spend at least $2.5 million more for another five years of its vasectomy program that ended in January.
The city announced last year that the three-year vasectomy program was working — reporting an 8 percent drop in the borough’s deer populationin the second year of the program. According to White Buffalo, the company that performed the deer vasectomies for three years, it is estimated that the borough’s deer population decreased from 2,053 in 2017 to 1,884 in 2018.
The mobile app has three sections to choose from on its home page, including an information center, a game and an option to report deer sightings.
The reporting deer section asks residents to take a photo of a deer, allow the mobile app to find your location, and send the information to the city Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
Team members said they believe the app would help educate the public and monitor herds of deer in the borough. Students will evaluate their progress of reducing the deer population by comparing information with the DEC and the city Parks Department, along with monitoring local health and traffic reports.
“Along with our water barriers, we hope to see a 75 percent decrease [in deer] in the next decade,” said student Melanie Cortez.
Student Lora-Mei Panepinto cited data from the U.S. Forest Service, which said a healthy number of deer per square mile is 20.
“Therefore, considering Staten Island’s undeveloped land, we should aim for approximately 775 deer in the next decade. Down from the current 2,500,” said Panepinto.
The three other team members included Nathaniel Amshen, Briaden Shen, and Michael Capasso-Ragusa.
Students from all district intermediate and high schools were invited to participate in this year’s Hack League — a program that is part of the Computer Science for All initiative, in partnership with BetaNYC. Students used computer science concepts and open data from their school neighborhoods to solve problems impacting their communities.
About 1,700 students across all five boroughs participated in the league this year. To make it to the final competition, teams had to win their school-based competition and their borough-wide competition.
“Tech is a burgeoning industry on Staten Island, so I am glad to see the Staten Island middle schools and high schools that are involved with Computer Science for All,” said Borough President James Oddo. “This is a very important step for our Borough’s schools that will ensure our students are prepared and educated for the future of our workforce.”
Other Hack League finalists from Staten Island include: Totten Intermediate School (I.S. 34), Tottenville; Port Richmond High School; Susan E. Wagner High School, Sea View; Staten Island School of Civic Leadership, Graniteville; and Staten Island Technical High School, New Dorp.