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April 14, 2011

DonorsChoose.Org Launches Contest to Improve K-12 Public Education

By Madhubanti Rudra, TMCnet Contributor, a charitable, educational website, recently launched a contest for web developer and researchers. Named, ‘Hacking Education: A Contest for Developers and Data Crunchers’, the contest aims to inspire discoveries and experiences that are likely to improve the K-12 public education in the country.

As a part of the contest, the organization will open up its huge data archive for the contestants. On’s nonprofit website, public school teachers advertise specific educational projects for their students, asking for financial or material support. To date, 165,000 teachers at 43,000 public and charter schools have reportedly used to secure funding for $80 million in books, art supplies, technology, and other resources that their students need to learn.

The donors can choose the projects they want to support. After the project is over, the donor hears back from the classroom they supported in the form of photographs and student thank-you letters.

Accumulated over a decade, the organization’s extensive data comprise 300,000 classroom project requests from 165,000 teachers across the country, and more than 1,000,000 project contributions. According to the educational charity, its data have the potential to reveal interesting information about classroom needs in America.

Contestants are required to use information such as search queries performed by donors, the subject area and resource type of each project, teacher affiliation and the latitude, longitude, and poverty rate of each school to conduct any number of revealing analyses. Their work will be evaluated on the basis of a central question: Which app or analysis has the greatest potential to engage the public and impact education?

The contestants will also be allowed to access the website’s robust API to build apps that reinvent the experience by interacting directly with the site's live projects.'s API has already been used by Chevron (News - Alert), SONIC Drive-In, Bing, NBC Universal, and others to power several marketing campaigns promoting social causes.

“We're inviting web developers, researchers, and data crunchers to mine, mash up, and build applications using our data. The goal is to make discoveries and create experiences that will improve K-12 public education in our country. We believe that the features we've built into represent just a fraction of what's possible, so we can't wait to see what the contestants come up with!” founder and CEO Charles Best explained in a statement.

The judge’s panel consists of Huffington Post's (News - Alert) Arianna Huffington, Teach for America's Wendy Kopp, News Corp's Joel Klein, and venture capitalist Fred Wilson. The winner will receive the grand prize from Stephen Colbert.

Participants can submit contest entries in the categories of PHP, JavaScript, Ruby, Python, .NET (News - Alert), and data analyses to be judged by respected experts from those communities. The entries should be sent before June 30. Interested contestants are invited to visit more information and participation instructions.

Last month Capella University (News - Alert) came into news by donating $10,000 to America's neediest schoolchildren through DonorsChoose. Capella University is an accredited online university that has built its reputation providing high quality online degree programs for working adults.

Madhubanti Rudra is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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