UWM Spotlight on Excellence: App Brewery

You can’t have a stuffy environment and expect
that amazing innovative things are going to come out of that. The School of Information Studies had a demand
from their students that they want to learn more about mobile apps, so they talked to
us to try to make a class out of it. I just expected a simple lecture: Sit down,
do some homework, and take an exam and pass. Suddenly, my teacher announced, ‘Oh, we’re
doing a project for Visit Milwaukee.’ Last semester it was for Milwaukee County. He expressed this idea to make a student lab
like this and if we were interested we should tell him. The App Brewery, it really is a classroom.
A classroom can be real world; it can be out in the environment. I think that’s the most
effective classroom we can provide. It truly goes across multiple units on campus. It goes
across multiple units in the private sector, the public sector. It’s a collaborative event.
It isn’t just one person trying to come up with an idea and then making something happen. These are real-world projects for very, very
real clients. You don’t feel like you’re at a university when you’re sitting here in these
meetings. You feel like you’re working for some company. We view what the lab provides as really being
kind of the beginning part of that entrepreneurial or innovative ecosystem in Milwaukee. Seeing
something that the students have created – for example, the real-time GPS tracking of all
the county busses is something that frankly sets Milwaukee apart from other major metropolitan
cities in the country. And, one of our missions of being a research university is to be able
to give back to the community What these students are doing – they’re creating
a new doorway for women, kids and men to walk through out of violence, into peace – and
that is a phenomenal, phenomenal opportunity for us, and for our clients, and an achievement
for the mobile lab. We just could not execute it without the help of the university. Apps for a specific convention or a specific
meeting have become more and more prevalent to the point it often is asking the question,
“Do we have capabilities to do a convention app?” We have limited budgets. We only have
so much money, but yet we’re being evaluated on our ability to compete against, in our
case, other cities. So, without the collaborative approach to help us produce these tools that
we need to stay competitive, I just don’t know how we would do it. I think mobile is that next step of using
these devices that we all have in our pockets as a way of really making a difference. And,
I think that the students who work in the lab love that aspect of their job. I love
that aspect of my job. I think it will feel really cool if I’m waiting
at a bus stop and I see somebody using the Milwaukee County app because, you’re just
thinking in your head, “I made that.” The moment you walk onto the campus, there
is already an opportunity to help make sure that when you graduate, you’ll be able to
start a career right away. All the students that are in the Brewery right
now, at this moment, could spin off their own company. That’s what’s really going to
have a lasting impact from this program.

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