Humber College and the City of Toronto ran a joint Hackathon Thursday

Humber College students were issued a challenge by the City of Toronto: reimagine a 40-year-old model of the city called Tiny Town.  

The Faculty of Applied Sciences and Technology and the Faculty of Media and Creative Arts hosted a Hackathon Thursday in collaboration with the City of Toronto. Thirty students split into groups made up of students from each faculty so each group benefitted from expertise across fields of study.  

“I don’t know anything about urban planning, I don’t know anything about designing a city but I know 3D models, texturing, the artistic side of it,” said Madison Lederer, a second-year student in the animation program.  

Her partner Pegah Sarglozaei has data gathering covered. She is enrolled in the User Experience Design (UX-Design) post-graduate program.  

“It’s a really good opportunity for all of us from different backgrounds. For me, I could have a chance to work on the research part." 

The team created their own version of the city model which includes a phone application that would help users find their way around the city.  

“I went through the research part on the history of the town and what is going to happen in the future,” said Sarglozaei.Inserting image... 

The opportunity to work with the municipality, solving real problems, is part of Humber's focus on collaboration with industry and government. The City of Toronto  

Tapping into 40 years of expertise  
The original Tiny Town builder, Rollo Myers, was at City Hall, not to admire his 40-year-old handiwork, but to impart some wisdom onto the students. He is known as an "honourary architect" for his extensive work to preserve heritage buildings in the city.  
“There’s still a use for the models,” he said.  

The original Tiny Town wasn’t intended for public viewing. It was a tool used by the planning department, but when offices moved around and space became limited, it was moved to an alcove just off the main atrium.  

“I’d invented a machine that could improve the technology back in the 1970s, which could provide models for architectural engineers who need a 3D model,” said Myers.  

The Tiny Town is out of date, despite several additions throughout the years.  
Myers sees it as an introduction to the city for newcomers – one that should be up to date both for esthetics and for practicality.  

And Myers still has new ideas for the model. He describes two maps mounted on the wall behind the existing model.  

“Wouldn’t it be fun to do a photo mosaic of different parts of the city, [and] some of the neighbourhoods people like to visit? Put pictures of those up and connect them with a string to the place on the model.”  

New and improved 

'Let's see what you can do,' Meyers said after speaking to the group of Humber College students at the beginning of the Hackathon. They dispersed and got to work. 

Madison Lederer, Pegah Sargolzaei and their partner Daniel Japal called their pitch "Tiny Town Through Time."  In addition to a new physical model of the city, they designed a history-driven phone app to show change in the city through a Tiny Town model.Inserting image... 

The application would work with the physical model.  Through the user's phone, the app would overlay the 3D Tiny Town, helping to identify significant landmarks and provide more information to users. 

Their final pitch to City of Toronto planners and staff focused on the Royal York Hotel as an example. 

Carolyn Humphreys, the city's Graphic and Visualisation program manager, nodded her approval. She listened to the presentations, asked questions and offered feedback. The majority of her remarks to the Humber students were positive. 

"I am so grateful to all of you for being wild and crazy," she said. 

One team gave a lengthy presentation and left out a part of their process.  

"I want to hear about it!" said Humphreys. 

Once the students explained their app further, she said "I love it!" before moving on to the next group of hackers. 

The students gathered around the old model of Toronto and thanked Humphreys and her colleagues for hosting the event. It was part of a week of 'Playdays,' where students participate in learning experiences in place of regular class. 

"Now that you've had your playday here," said Humphreys, "Let me welcome you into my playground." 
She ushered the group of 30 onto the other side of the glass, metres away from their plans for a Tiny Town of the future.