Local Partners Launch “Code the Hoan” to Inspire Next Generation of Tech Talent

MILWAUKEE — This month, Light the Hoan joined forces with several local programs and organizations with shared focus on STEM education to inspire the next generation of coders.

The unique partnership, which includes Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE), Islands of Brilliance, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, Philips Signify, Discovery World, 88Nine Radio Milwaukee, and SHARP Literacy, aims to develop STEM programming and curriculum to develop the region’s future tech talent.

Utilizing the technology that powers the bridge lights, learning modules will be provided to Milwaukee-area students to teach highly desirable STEM skills using a tangible, visible local platform: Milwaukee’s iconic Hoan Bridge.

Unique elements of the program include:

  • The development of user interfaces and programming which will allow students to design lighting schemes and custom “choreography” for the Hoan Bridge lights;
  • The distribution of this interface for customization and interaction with students to the Boys & Girls Clubs, Discovery World’s coding camps, MSOE’s “Girls Who Code,” and precollege coding programs and SHARP Literacy;
  • A partnership with MSOE, facilitated through the CREATE Institute, to provide undergraduate students the opportunity to work with industry professionals on meaningful real-world projects in their courses such as a Light the Hoan “design sprint,” in a creative thinking class within the User Experience program; and
  • A partnership with 88Nine and Code the Hoan wherein students would meet with local Milwaukee musicians and develop a bridge lighting design to sync with a song of his or her choice, to amplify the skills and talent of both.

At a Light the Hoan fundraiser, Hostad noted his own experience with learning code, which centered on building a mortgage calculator. Code the Hoan aims to provide training that connects with students in a more creative, relatable, and exciting way.

“Code the Hoan has aligned and unified the STEM education community in Milwaukee in a unique way,” said Michael Hostad, co-founder of the Light the Hoan effort. “This project is about more than lights on a bridge and it is inspiring tech and coding talent because it brings coding to life in a beautiful, artistic and visible way for students and young people.”

Launched in mid-2018, Light the Hoan is a private fundraising effort to install LED lighting on the iconic Milwaukee bridge. Fundraising has surpassed the halfway mark, and the committee continues to work to meet its goal of having the bridge lit in time for the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee.

“Though lighting projects like this are being completed in other major cities across the globe, never before have we seen this level of engagement with STEM education or enthusiasm about the project’s potential to inspire a generation of coders,” said Jhawn Newman, vice president of system centers at Signify. “A whole new concept in partnership, STEM education and public infrastructure projects is growing right here out of Milwaukee.”