Apps and maps studio will help underserved kids solve community problems
A Knight Foundation grant will engage more young residents in the city’s creative industries
Young adults from Philadelphia’s underserved communities will soon get the training needed to take part in the city’s growing applications development community, through a Temple University program expanding with new funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Over the next three summers, 300 high school and college-age students will take part in a six-week program at Temple’s Urban Apps and Maps Studios, learning the basics of digital design and business skills. About a dozen will then become year-round community fellows working with the university and developers to create apps that solve the challenges of urban communities.
“Students and young adults are quite savvy in the use of technology. By showing them how this technology works from the development and innovation side, we can help convert that passion into job skills and engage them in helping the community,” said Temple Senior Associate Vice Provost for Research Michele Masucci, who is also professor and chair of Geography and Urban Studies.
Knight Foundation is supporting the program with a $635,000 grant as a way to engage more young residents in the city’s creative industries and in solving some of the problems faced by their community, said Donna Frisby-Greenwood, Knight’s Philadelphia program director.
“Philadelphia is becoming a center for tech and innovation, and Knight Foundation wants to make sure that the African-Americans and Latinos who make up more than half of this community are engaged in this growing field. Putting these students at the center of the design process can also help ensure that apps reflect the needs of the communities they seek to serve,” Frisby-Greenwood said.
Masucci said that Temple will work with the Philadelphia School District and one of its long-standing partners, Philadelphia Youth Network, to identify and recruit students who live and go to school in the North Philadelphia area around the university. She added they hope to eventually expand the program to include students from throughout Philadelphia.
The Temple Urban Apps and Maps Studios is a university-wide program initiated last year through a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.
The studio aims to connect one of the largest groups of information technology users — high school and college students — with urban entrepreneurs and community, governmental and academic leaders. Together, participants develop and commercialize apps and maps to solve the challenges faced by an urban society by focusing on issues confronting North Philadelphia. The primary goal of the program is to stimulate economic development, job creation and business ventures in underserved Philadelphia neighborhoods and across the Northeast.
A central activity of the program is to involve participants in design challenges — university-sponsored forums that engage them to develop innovative solutions to urban problems that make use of new digital technologies. Ideas that have emerged from the Urban Apps and Maps Design Studios include an app for urban farming, utilizing apps for improving health care and designing apps around simulations and games as a way to educate youth about personal finance.
“Urban Apps & Maps represent a unique approach to one of our generation’s grand challenges: urbanization,” said Temple Management Information Systems Professor Youngjin Yoo, director of Center for Design+Innovation, who will serve as the principal investigator on Knight Foundation’s grant. “By integrating design, technology and entrepreneurship together with world class research at Temple in the area of humanity, social science, engineering, computer science and business, we are trying to build next generation urban leaders who can build their own solutions for the challenges that their communities are facing in our cities.”
“Faculty from Temple’s Fox School of Business, College of Science and Technology, College of Liberal Arts, College of Engineering and Tyler School of Art, including designers, chip creators, software developers, database builders and entrepreneurs are involved in this unprecedented university-wide collaboration,” said Masucci.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit KnightFoundation.org.