Spot the most defibrillators in Philly, win $10K!

Announcing Philadelphia’s newest citizen science project: MyHeartMap Challenge!

Automated External Defibrillator (AED)
Automated External Defibrillator (AED)

This project aims to crowdsource the first-of-its-kind map of Automated External Defibrillators in Philadelphia by photographing AEDs.

When someone collapses and stops breathing, an automated external defibrillator or AED can save their life. [Home AEDs are available for purchase.] In Philadelphia, PA, a city with about 1.5 million people, AEDs are all around us. Near our homes, workplaces, and even grocery stores! Currently, there is no comprehensive map, and, as a result, AEDs are often not used when they are most needed. With the crowdsourced information collected from this contest, the organizers will build a map of AED locations in Philadelphia that can inform 911 services and the public.

The MyHeartMap contest will officially go live January 31, 2012 at 9am! Until then, you can download the app from the iPhone store and Android marketplace and start submitting entries. Clues will be posted at the project website and The contest closes on March 13, 2012, at 6pm ET!

There are three ways to play:

1. Find and photograph the most AEDs in Philadelphia County before March 13, 2012 and win the $10,000 grand prize. The team or individual that finds the most “confirmed,” “eligible” AEDs by the contest end date will receive the grand prize of $10,000.

2. Be the first to submit a photograph of a “Golden”AED and win $50. The organizers have identified between 20 and 200 AEDs in Philadelphia County as “Golden” AEDs. These are unmarked, and you won’t know it’s a winner when you photograph it. Clues will be posted at the MyHeartMap project website.

3. Want to help but not compete for a prize? Submit addresses of locations without AEDs or that you wish had an AED – this is just for fun, and it will help with the map.

I had the opportunity to chat with the brains behind this project, Raina Merchant, Assistant Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine:

Raina Merchant
Raina Merchant

SciStarter: Why did you start this project, Raina?

Raina: I wanted everyone who had a cardiac arrest to survive and have a second chance at life. For this to happen, lots of different components of the chain of survival have to be in place. AEDs are an important link in the chain, and this seemed like a good place to start and then build on. I was disturbed to learn that although AEDs were in public places all over the world, no one knew where they were, and, in the event of an emergency, I couldn’t use my phone or emergency services to locate them. I wanted to approach the AED problem using a novel approach that engaged the public through technology, phones, and social media.

I learned about the DARPA Network Challenge (DNC) to locate red balloons from a colleague and thought that it seemed like a great approach to apply to a public health problem. The DNC showed that with the proper incentives, today’s “networked society” is able to virtually mobilize to help solve a challenge and importantly to innovate. When this challenge relates to the American public health system and the well-being of our citizens, there is the opportunity for the response to be equally strong if not better. Ultimately, studying how social networking can augment traditional research methods offers significant promise in approaching public health challenges that are essentially stuck and need a paradigm shift to advance

SciStarter: What do you hope to accomplish?

Raina: Our goals are to:
– Build the first U.S. city crowdsourced map of AEDs that can be made available to the 911 center and the public via a mobile phone.
– Gain a better understanding of the distribution of AEDs in Philadelphia so that we can determine optimal AED placement.
– Develop crowdsourcing and social media metrics related to data collection, validation, and surveillance.
– Use the information learned from this project to expand the MyHeartMap challenge to other US cities and then the rest of the U.S.

SciStarter: What persuaded you to make it participatory (involve the public)?

Raina: The traditional approach for locating AEDs would involve hiring a large team of research assistants to search for AEDs. This approach would be costly and time-consuming and wouldn’t help with improving the public’s awareness of AEDs in their environment. There are lots of examples of how citizen science projects can engage the public to help with data collection – the result is often a more empowered public and new ways of approaching health challenges.

SciStarter: Any concerns about the quality of data?

Raina: We recognize that collecting data about AEDs is difficult and that some data entries with low quality data will be intentional and others unintentional.

SciStarter: And surprising developments?

Raina: Several teams have contacted us and indicated that they are going to participate long-distance and collect data without being in Philadelphia. They are going to rely completely on data entered through social networks. We’re excited to see if this strategy works as this could provide important insights about how organizations can evaluate data they haven’t visualized.

SciStarter: Take a wild guess at how many defibs will be accounted for in total and how many will be spotted by the winner?

Raina: We think there are about 5000 AEDs in Philadelphia. We hope that winner uses a creative strategy to find most of them. I’ll guess 4997!

SciStarter: What’s next?

Raina: We hope to develop subsequent challenges in Philadelphia and then expand to collect AED data across the country. We’re also looking to use other social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Gigwalk, Tumblr, Google Insights etc… engage the public to help us study and solve important public health challenges.

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About the Author

Darlene Cavalier

Darlene Cavalier

Darlene Cavalier is a Professor at Arizona State University's Center for Engagement and Training, part of the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. Cavalier is the founder of SciStarter. She is also the founder of Science Cheerleader, an organization of more than 300 current and former professional cheerleaders pursuing STEM careers, and a cofounder of ECAST: Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology, a network of universities, science centers, and think tanks that produces public deliberations to enhance science policymaking. She is a founding board member of the Citizen Science Association, a senior advisor at Discover Magazine, a member of the EPA's National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology, and was appointed to the National Academy of Sciences "Designing Citizen Science to Support Science Learning" committee. She is the author of The Science of Cheerleading and co-editor of The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science, published by Arizona State University. Darlene holds degrees from Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania and was a high school, college and NBA cheerleader. Darlene lives in Philadelphia with her husband and four children.