I respectfully acknowledge the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), q̓íc̓əy̓ (Katzie), kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem), Qayqayt, Kwantlen, Semiahmoo and Tsawwassen peoples on whose traditional territories the three campuses of Simon Fraser University reside.

If there was one word to describe the last year and three months, or more depending on when you are reading this, it would be “unprecedented”. From restrictions on where you can travel, to how close you can be to other people, to how much time those of us lucky enough to be able to work from home have spent in our improvised home offices, nothing has been normal. Through the hardships we have faced, we have also been given the spur to make changes in the way we work and collaborate. This became very apparent when our team, EqualiTeam, entered the 2021 Esri Canada Centres of Excellence App Challenge.

Three years ago in 2018, Kendra Munn, Danielle Derrick, and I entered our first App Challenge. We met in the Spatial Analysis and Modeling Lab at Simon Fraser University, eagerly awaiting the email that would kick off the start of our week. The ding of the inbox was like the starter pistol of a sprint. We started brainstorming ideas, searching for data, and generally having a great time working towards our goal. Over the following week, we would work separately and meet up to share our progress and have work sessions. Doing live demos of the features we had worked on, exchanging data, and walking across an empty campus searching for food long after most students and staff had left for home.

Screenshot of the Sport Logic app
Our 2018 app, Sport Logic, a platform to advertise and find pick-up sport events near you

Jump forward to 2021, Danielle has graduated and we acquired Bright Addae. From the surface, the empty campus was the only thing that seemed to remain the same. However, once you look a little closer, similarities begin appearing. The lab was replaced by home offices and video chat, where yet again we waited for that ding of the inbox to start our sprint. We were off, brainstorming ideas, searching for data, and again, having a great time working towards our goal. While we worked separately, we were more together than in 2018 using video chat to stay connected while we worked. Live demos were replaced by screen sharing, and exchanging data was done through file-sharing services rather than USB drives. One thing that changed was the search for food, the walk is a lot shorter when you only have to go to the kitchen.

Screenshot of the Ekoalaty app
Suitability Analysis from our app, Ekoalaty

The actual work on the app was surprisingly not very different from 2018. The App Challenge is designed perfectly for remote work by using ArcGIS Online, providing a platform for remote work and collaboration. Same as before, we each had tasks to finish and upload the final products to ArcGIS Online where everything was condensed into our app. We worked on the app itself together, but instead of gathering around a computer one person simply shared their screen to the video chat. This allowed us to fine-tune the various aspects while getting everyone’s input. The entire team could test changes to the app in real-time on their own computer which made finding bugs and mistakes much easier.

While the remoteness of this year’s App Challenge was at first daunting, in the end, it was another amazing experience. With the future potentially containing more flexible remote work options, ArcGIS Online is already ahead of the game. I cannot wait to see my teammates in person again, in our lab, and not on my computer screen. This unprecedented year has brought out unprecedented changes to how and where we work, and will forever impact our lives.

Check out our team’s 2021 ECCE App Challenge page: https://esricanada-ce.github.io/appchallenge/2021/teams/sfu/EqualiTeam/

Thank you to Michael Leahy and the rest of the team at Esri Canada for their support in the App Challenge and the ECCE!