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April 21, 2014

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Joe Downtown: Code for America fellows to bring engineering expertise to downtown

First, Zappos and its CEO Tony Hsieh pledged $1.5 million to Teach for America, which will bring hundreds of new college graduates to Las Vegas to teach in economically disadvantaged schools in Las Vegas.

Venture for America then received a $1 million pledge, which it can use any way it sees fit. But Hsieh and the Downtown Project will bring more Venture for America fellows to Las Vegas in the coming years, since the first seven who arrived this fall are doing so well. The graduates are working with the Downtown Project in a variety of areas, from healthcare to technology investment.

Now comes Code for America.

Downtown Project is donating $160,000 and the city of Las Vegas is donating another $160,000 to this group that sends engineers and other technology-oriented college grads to communities that will use them to help solve problems with technology.

“They have a process of figuring out what needs to be done,” said Patricia Dues, information technology manager for the city.

The city will get its coterie of engineering fellows for about a month in February. After talking to staff and people in the community, the group will work to determine ways the city can solve problems and become more efficient through the use of technology. Then the fellows will work for a year to come up with some solutions.

Downtown will be the city’s focus this time around, Dues added.

These are some applications Code for America fellows developed for other U.S. cities:

• BlightStatus gives neighborhood information about blighted properties in New Orleans, making it “simple for residents to find out what’s going on with blighted properties in their community – no long waits on the telephone or visits to City Hall required.”

* Where’s My School Bus in Boston gives parents real-time data that show the location of their child’s school bus.

Think you’ve got a good idea for some kind of app the city could use? Drop me an email.

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts complex.

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