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Students Innovate to Address Gas Shortages Following Hurricane Sandy

November 9, 2012 - 3:43pm


Franklin High School students working on their online map of gas and charging stations. | Photo courtesy Dayana Bustamante

Franklin High School students working on their online map of gas and charging stations. | Photo courtesy Dayana Bustamante

As part of our efforts in helping with Hurricane Sandy restoration efforts, the Energy Department is working closely with other federal partners, state and local authorities, and private industry partners to get generators and fuel to gas stations that need it.

Among these partners is a group of high school students in New Jersey. Starting with a few students, dozens eventually gathered at Franklin High School in New Brunswick to use the online mapping service Mappler to publish information on open gas stations with available fuel.  Not only is the data these students are collecting now available on Mappler, it is being fed directly into Google’s Crisis Map. Thousands of people have since used these services to find information for their fueling needs.

“The experience has been a rollercoaster ride.  I could have been playing video games, but instead I am helping to make a difference in this world.  This project has united us all,” said Josue Serrano, one of the students involved in the Mappler effort.

Participants are gathering information for their Mappler app from personal observation, calling local gas stations, media reports, and updates from other social media users on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Quality, up-to-date data can significantly lower wait times for drivers and it can also assist in commercial and government efforts to direct power and fuel resources to the areas most in need.

The Franklin High students had already been working with Mappler and other online programs through a youth community mapping initiative called IMSOCIO. Dr. Wansoo Im, a Rutgers University professor, mentors the students and helped connect the Mappler data with other Energy Department resources such as the creation of a gas station call center.

“I am so proud that they are making a difference,” says Dr. Im. “IMSOCIO students have been using Mappler for the past two years to learn how technology can serve our communities via participatory mapping.” 

Other technology-minded organizations working behind-the-scenes to help in recovery and response efforts following Hurricane Sandy include mobile apps like Waze and GasBuddy, other educational institutions like University of Washington, and technical communities like Hurricane Hackers and Crisis Commons.  These groups demonstrate the best of American innovation and commitment to community.

Editor's Note: The Department of Energy is featuring applications and companies leveraging open data and does not endorse any product or service provided.