NeedHou - The Giving Tree

A visualization of Houston's social service gaps

Project Details

Delivered To Sketch City – City of Houston Hackathon
Date 5/17
Skills Unity, C#, and Object Oriented design
Project Page NeedHou

Project Description

Sketch City and the City of Houston Hackathon are civic based organizations. Each team attempts to solve issues related to civic services, including law enforcement, service providers, traffic management, tourism, and more. NeedHou tackles the problem of disjointed information between various providers. It is a large project with multiple facets all operating off of similar data.


In this project, my team agreed to visualize the providers in an interactive way. When foundations are searching through sheets of data for various providers, often it is difficult to identify which segments of the services arrangement are in most need. The Giving Tree aims to show an interactive, filterable visualization of all service providers and provide a reference to supplement the large databases.


This project was built in 2D, uses XML packages to display the tree, and was part of the NeedHou first place team.


The Giving Tree loads data from an XML document, this document would be passed from the web in the final version. With that data, tree branches, limbs, and leaves are spawned. Labels are added as the user moves between sections and zoom levels of the tree.


This is simple, but also very powerful.

So Let’s Explore

In this example tree, we can see that the ‘Education-Jobs’ branch is very sparse, while the ‘Community Support’ branch is very dense. Upon further inspection, organizations like the YMCA are the largest, and they appear in multiple branches. Armed with this knowledge, a charitable foundation could identify that more research is needed into ‘Education-Jobs’ services, and even further ‘GED’ sub-limb is a underrepresented category.

Lessons Learned

This was my first Hackathon, so working in a familiar technology allowed me to deliver content tailored to the team.

We hit several road bumps, from object rotational challenges, to communicating project ideas to subject matter experts. While the labels still maintained the rotational problems, we were able to prototype examples of how this could help. With those prototypes the SME’s were then able to help identify aspects of service categories that are most popular to investigate. Overall, it was a great experience and I’ve been investigating methods of making this project 3D to expand what information is represented.

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