94labs team working to make Classroom Catalyst a reality

By now you may have heard of the Milwaukee Public Schools and OnMilwaukee.com partnership to create the Milwaukee Classroom Catalyst.

The site (you can see a quick explanation at this promo page) will allow schools to post their needs – be it time, labor, supplies, talent, etc. – so that individuals, community groups, businesses and even other schools can lend a hand to local public schools, even in the smallest ways.

The project was born out of brainstorming sessions with Milwaukee School Board Director Meagan Holman. Even before the site was created, the partnership solved a problem at Tippecanoe-Dover in Bay View.

A class held in a lab at the school – which was created at a new site (formerly a middle school) from two separate programs this year – couldn’t get seats appropriate for its tall work stations.

After contacting a number of local restaurateurs, the Lowlands Group offered to donate 16 stools with backs to the school. Now, the kids can sit comfortably and Lowlands has a little extra storage space at Trocadero. Everybody wins.

This week, thanks to the 94labs Social Cause Hackathon taking place at Marquette University, a team is working hard to create that Catalyst web site and infuse it with all of the features required to make the partnership a success.

“The goal of the 94labs Social Cause Hackathon is to bring together aspiring entrepreneurs, business students, designers and developers to build applications for the sponsoring non-profit agencies,” says the 94labs web site.

“The objective for the teams will be to create an application that will help the agencies raise awareness, increase donations or improve their current web functionality and efficiency.”

Top prize is $5,000, second place gets $3,000, third earns $1,000 and there are two $500 prizes, too.

The team working on the Catalyst – other teams are tackling projects for The Salvation Army and three other non-profits – includes Marquette student Becca Osmolski, computer consultant Josh Holtz and Rob Krecak, who works at Robert W. Baird and owns an Anytime Fitness in Sussex.

Right now we are still in the middle of coding the web site and making it fully functional,” Krecak told me this afternoon. “We are also a bit under the gun since some teams were able to start coding on Sunday night, but our team didn’t have a programmer until Tuesday morning.

“We are extremely excited to be able to take part in this hackathon and help the kids of MPS in the process.  So far it has been a learning experience for all of us!”

The top three teams will be chosen Thursday evening and there will be an awards ceremony on Sunday. The complete details are at 94labs.com.

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