Diversity & Inclusion
Education / Transportation

4 ideas for improving how city students get to school

A recap of Hack Baltimore's Smarter Schools Challenge — a hackathon focused on improving school transportation options.

One of the teams that presented at Hack Baltimore's Smarter Schools Challenge event. (Photo by Keisha Reed)

Transformation and change are synonymous with Baltimore city’s history. That’s why when Hack Baltimore decided to host a hackathon this past Saturday based on the transportation issues of Baltimore city students, it was fitting to have it at the Baltimore Design School.
Located in the Station North arts and entertainment district, the Baltimore Design School is a new addition to Baltimore City Public Schools that features a targeted arts and design curriculum. Students at BDS, like students from all over Baltimore city, have been known to experience safety and efficiency issues while traveling to and from school.
In partnership with Baltimore City Public Schools, Hack Baltimore held its Smarter Schools Challenge: Transit, a hackathon for community members to propose and create innovative solutions to improve travel for BCPS students.
After a morning of reflections from Baltimore city students, officials, MTA operators and a brainstorming session identifying issues, hackathon participants broke off into groups to form ideas for proposals to be submitted.
Here are the proposals that were developed over the course of the day:


Baltimore Ride Share


  • Facilitate rideshare connections between citizen drivers and students.
  • Offer citizens an opportunity through volunteerism to help improve access to public education.
  • Increase student attendance by facilitating shorter transit times than presently available by public transportation.
A prototype of the Baltimore Ride Share platform. (Screenshot)

A prototype of the Baltimore Ride Share platform. (Screenshot)


An Uber-like system for students with special needs


  • To create a mobile or smartphone app to track school buses in real-time.
  • Long-term vision is to send out notifications of students reaching destination.


A better bus ride


  • Improve the school bus trip by better engaging students.
  • To turn the transit trip into a positive experience for everyone (students, the public and operators) by introducing a positive environment through distraction, engagement and entertainment.
Presenting ideas for a better bus ride. (Photo by Keisha Reed)

Presenting ideas for a better bus ride. (Photo by Keisha Reed)


Mapping a clear visualization of routes


  • To establish hubs that move students through the city.
  • Use data to visualize routes, times and landmarks to be used in making transportation choices.


All projects were awarded start up funding to get their ideas off the ground. There was also the conversation of homelessness and how that plays a role in the transportation of students throughout the city. That issue will play a major role once projects are implemented for the 2015-2016 school year.
Selected teams will have 60 days to develop their ideas into prototypes. After that, the prototypes will be demonstrated for BCPS officials. The most promising of these projects will be put into effect for the 2015-2016 school year.

Attendees of Hack Baltimore's Smarter Schools Challenge event. (Photo by Keisha Reed)

Attendees talk at Hack Baltimore’s Smarter Schools Challenge. (Photo by Keisha Reed)

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