W+K Tomorrow & PIE Host Hack Day for Portland Public Schools

This Saturday, W+K Tomorrow and the Portland Incubator Experiment hosted a hack day for Portland Public Schools. Emerging from the GOOD Ideas for Cities event in February, the hack aimed to make some of the ideas more tangible. It was also the first move in an attempt to get the 85% of Portlanders who don’t have school age kids more involved with public schools.

Mayor Sam Adams kicked off the day at 10am. We had a great turnout – a good mix of representatives from the City and the school system, people from some of the key organizations supporting schools, and a healthy dose of developers.

Organic conversations arose surrounding the presented problem at hand while all attendees self-sorted into groups. That’s when the day’s work began.

85% of people in central Portland have no children of school age. This means that the majority has no natural connection with the school system. We want to make it easier for that 85% to support Portland’s public schools, and this event is the first stage…by appealing to the developer and design community to lend us their talent for one day to build on some of the ideas. And to invent new ones.

Our research with schools and supporting organizations showed that a few simple things – books, food, clothing and people’s time – could make a big difference to students. We also learnt that there are many organizations in Portland that are set up to support schools in these ways. We want to build a tool that makes it easy to find these organizations, and to give resources to them.

It was gratifying to see a number of local tech companies getting involved. Participants from Mozilla, The Brigade, cel.ly as well as the Software Association of Oregon were all on site during the hack.

In the end, 8 teams presented Mayor Sam Adams and Portland Public School Superintendent Carole Smith with demos of possible solutions. Ideas ranged from a text message model that showed users where to bring books and other necessities, to a Kickstarter-inspired platform, and a Facebook build to connect more Portlanders to school events.

Thanks to everyone who joined us this Saturday to hack for Portland’s public schools. We’re excited to see how these ideas move forward.

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