July 25, 2011 11:28 ET

Stephen Colbert Anoints Winner of 'Hacking Education' Contest

Winning App Enables Email Signatures to Show Classroom Projects in Need of Funding

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - Jul 25, 2011) - announced today the winner of Hacking Education: A Contest for Developers and Data Crunchers. On the set of The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert presented the Big Winner trophy to Michael Nutt of New York City, who developed an app that enables anyone to easily add a dynamic project listing in an email signature. Contest judges Arianna Huffington, Fred Wilson, and Wendy Kopp selected the winner. Stephen Colbert and Fred Wilson are on's board of directors.

In April,, the online education charity and one of Fast Company's "50 Most Innovative Companies in the World," unveiled the contest, which challenged the public to make discoveries and build apps that improve education in America. For the first time, the organization made its extensive data public to inspire contestants. Collected over 10 years, the data includes 300,000 classroom project requests from 165,000 teachers across the country, and more than 1,000,000 project contributions.

Contestants developed 50 apps and data analyses, across seven categories, which were evaluated against a central question: Which app or analysis has the greatest potential to engage the public and impact education? In addition, 400 developers and data crunchers joined the Hacking Education email list and 70 attended a 10-hour hackathon at General Assembly in New York City. Prizes for contest finalists were contributed by Google, Adobe, Microsoft, Best Buy, Webtrends, O'Reilly, Jumpstart Lab, Joyent, and Column Five Media.

"We are amazed and grateful for all of the interest in the contest and the outstanding technical contributions," said Founder and CEO Charles Best. "The technology community was incredibly gracious in donating its time and expertise to classrooms across the country. The contest yielded some unbelievable apps and analyses that will truly help to improve public education and get resources into the hands of needy teachers and students."

An online showcase displays the projects of the Big Winner, 8 finalists and 25 additional contestants that wowed the judges and staff. The following are descriptions of the category winners:

Data Analysis contest category winner:
"Hacking Education" Series by Lisa Zhang
An examination of the kinds of projects that teachers post and the kinds of projects that donors decided to support.

Data- > Knowledge- > Insight by Tiffany Bergin
A very user-friendly analysis of project funding trends.

Javascript contest category winner:
DonorZon by Jed Wood
Search on and this browser extension shows related classroom projects within the Amazon UI.

.NET contest category winner:
DonorsChoose Factbook by Jeremy Kratz
On this user-friendly and dynamic dashboard, you can slice and dice the org's historical data by a number of facets, including date range and state.

PHP contest category winner:
DonorsChoose Projects Near Me Wordpress Plugin by John Mertens
This Wordpress plugin determines the geographic location of each blog reader and displays nearby classroom projects.

Python contest category winner:
DCJ2 The Automatic Press Release System by Max Shron and Mike Dewar
Automatically creates compelling summaries of completed classroom projects and notifies local television and newspaper journalists.

Ruby contest category winner:
Donors Choose Signature by Michael Nutt
Create a dynamic email signature to show classroom projects in need of funding each time your email is viewed.

Wildcard contest category winner:
Charity Chirpa by Mark McSpadden
Suggests classroom projects you should recommend to your Twitter friends, based on your friends' geographic locations.

Building on's highly successful model, Hacking Education: A Contest for Developers and Data Crunchers was created to enable further innovation in public education. To date, 165,000 teachers at 43,000 public and charter schools (40% of all the public schools in America) have used to secure funding for $80 million in books, art supplies, technology, and other resources that their students need to learn.

On, individuals can contribute any dollar amount to classroom projects of their choosing. Once a project is fully funded, purchases the requested materials and sends them directly to the classroom. All donors receive photos of the project taking place, a thank-you letter from the teacher, and a cost report showing how each dollar was spent. Donors who fund more than $100 also receive hand-written thank-you letters from the students.

Founded in 2000, is a nonprofit website where public school teachers describe specific educational projects for their students, and donors can choose the projects they want to support. After completing a project, the donor hears back from the classroom they supported in the form of photographs and student thank-you letters.

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