Team Schoogle wins Penn policy challenge

A proposal that would enable principals in the School District of Philadelphia to use a mobile application to manage inventory and assets—resulting in significant annual savings—has won the Sixth Annual Penn Public Policy Challenge.

The competition, presented by Penn’s Fels Institute of Government, opened last November and pitted 10 student-led teams against one another to develop the best overall policy proposal and civic campaign.

The winning team, Schoogle, is made up of Fels students Nate Bronstein, Rob Alterman, and Brittany Keesling, and Soheil Eshghi, a Ph.D. student in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Bronstein is also pursuing a master of science in social policy in the School of Social Policy & Practice.    

“It was clear that they’d done their research,” says Sabrina Maynard, executive director of the challenge and a second-year student at Fels. “The School District spends millions on procurement, but nobody knows what’s out there. There are redundancies.”

In interviews with stakeholders, the Schoogle team learned that a chronic problem exists in which schools purchase items and supplies they already have and don’t need, with vast discrepancies between listed assets in schools and resources available to students.

“Our idea was very simple and filled a recognized gap,” says Eshghi. “The excellent feedback and buy-in from the stakeholders at the school district helped us to refine and focus our idea.”

Schoogle’s proposed mobile application would be sharable across all Philly public schools and would decrease the time it takes for principals and administrative staff to inventory their supplies. The aggregated data would be stored in a centralized, searchable database. Textbooks would be cross-listed with the Common Core standards they satisfy.

The team won a $5,000 prize and will move on to represent Penn at the Fourth Annual National Invitational Public Policy Challenge during the weekend of March 21-22. The team will compete in the semifinal round on March 21, squaring off in a round robin competition with students from schools such as Cornell, the University of Washington, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, New York University, Columbia, and Brown.

The top four teams will move on to the National Finals, which will be held at the National Constitution Center on Sunday, March 22. The winning team will receive a $10,000 grand prize, and the three runners-up will each receive $5,000.

The National Invitational and Finals are free and open to the public. Advance registration is recommended.

Team Schoogle