UWM unveils student-built mobile app for Milwaukee County

UWM Director of Web and Mobile Strategy Michael Hostad (left) with lead developer Quinn Madson at the App Brewery. (Photo by Peter Jakubowski)

By summer’s end, riders of Milwaukee Country Transit System (MCTS) buses will be able to limit the amount of time they spend waiting for their bus to arrive. By just consulting their smart phones, they will be able to track their bus in real time as it moves along its route.

It’s part of a new mobile app for Milwaukee County services that was created in university’s Mobile Innovation Lab (“the App Brewery”), which employs UWM students who apply skills learned in coursework offered in the School of Information Studies to real-world projects for area nonprofits.

On Tuesday, UWM Chancellor Michael R. Lovell joined Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and UWM Director of Web and Mobile Strategy Michael Hostad to announce the launch of the lab and demonstrate some of the aspects of its first product.

The county’s mobile app will feature information about and maps of county parks, the zoo, the Mitchell International Airport and county parking lots.

“I am really excited about this great resource because it benefits the community in a tangible way,” said Abele. “Through this project, Chancellor Lovell and the UWM community has once again shown their commitment to making Milwaukee County the best place to live, work and play. You will always have a willing partner in Milwaukee County.”

When completed, the app will also offer real-time GPS tracking of MCTS buses along with features route maps and where the nearest bus stop is from any location.

“At a time when mobile usage is overtaking fixed Internet access to information, UWM is providing this critical service to our community and our partners,” said Lovell. “Successful cities have at least one major university driving economic growth and innovation. Our city needs for us to do this.”

Lovell sees the lab as another pathway UWM offers its students who are interested in starting their own businesses, growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Milwaukee.

“These are real-world projects for very real clients,” said Aaron Hartwig, a sophomore in engineering. “You don’t feel like you’re at a university when you’re in these meetings. You feel like you’re working for some company.”

The lab is also working on apps for the Sojourner Family Peace Center and Visit Milwaukee. Also, at the brewery’s summer camp this year, high school students will be developing an app for the Urban Ecology Center.

“Students want to use the device that we all have in our back pocket as a way of potentially making a difference,” said Hostad. “We couldn’t do this if it weren’t for our community partners.”