Opportunity Project creates opportunities in the classroom

In March, The Iron Yard had the honor of collaborating with the White House to launch the Opportunity Project. This program makes community-specific data sets open and available to the public to help communities create solutions to their most pressing challenges like increasing access to jobs, housing, transportation, schools, neighborhood amenities and other critical resources.

When the Opportunity Project was announced, The Iron Yard committed to using the “Open Opportunity Data” in our curricula and student projects. Now, three months later, many of The Iron Yard’s students have had the chance to use the data and create civic-minded apps that benefit the communities where they live and work.


informed-city-2Last week, students on the Detroit campus were given a homework assignment to go online, find a database of information and plot it onto a map. Pat Cooke, a mobile engineering student, decided to use the Opportunity Project data to create an app called InformedCity.  

“Before this assignment, I hadn’t heard of the Opportunity Project,” Pat said. “I was surprised that this information – information about crime rates, housing values etc. – is public. For Detroit to post and update all of this information is kind of mind blowing. It opens the city up to a lot of analysis and that is awesome.”

From the Detroit data set, Pat’s app plots the location of police departments, crime data and housing values for the last year.  

“I’m a big data guy. I like to pull data apart and see what it tells me,” he said. “With the Opportunity Project data, there was all of this information. Every time I dug into the data, I tweaked the app a little more, and added a little more information to it.”

Pat recently put InformedCity up on TestFlight for beta testing and plans to release it in the app store next week. But his plans don’t stop there.

“I want to dig back into the data and see what else I can do,” he said. “Detroit is my home turf, so it made
informed-citysense to start there but I want to look at the data from other cities as well and start plotting that information.”

And this is all just the beginning for Pat. “Three or four years ago I wouldn’t have imagined that building apps was something I would be able to do. I really enjoy the idea of building things that can interact with the real world. I’m excited to pursue mobile development as a career and to keep on learning.”

Update: Pat’s app, InformedCity, is now available in the iTunes store.

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