Cloud-Based School Dismissal App Wins N.H. Tech Startup Contest

Jun 3, 2015

Credit flickr/bsabarnowl

A New Hampshire-based web application that aims to simplify the school dismissal process is getting a lot of attention.

PickUp Patrol, a student and parent-run startup company, was recently named the winner of the Ultimate New Hampshire Connection Tech Startup Competition.

The company’s founders spent Tuesday at the Statehouse, where they met with the governor and talked with industry experts about ways to grow the business.

Dan Brackett is chief technology officer of PickUp Patrol. He joined NHPR's Morning Edition.

Can you explain how the PickUp Patrol app works?

PickUp Patrol provides a cloud-based application for parents and schools to simplify after-school dismissal. Parents can use their mobile device or a computer to submit changes to their student’s plans. They may riding home on the bus or riding home with a friend, something different than the norm.

Schools would use the system to keep track of all these changes, instead of the traditional note in the backpack that tends to get lost. It’s a very simple system for both parents and schools, providing value to both sides.

So this is a way to keep both parents and the school system on the same page as far as what’s happening with the kids after school?

That’s exactly right, and especially make sure everything is happening in a safe and understood manner. A big part of the problem is the fact that when there’s an issue, the schools will often not necessarily know where the children are. The parent calls up and that’s usually the worst day for a school. This helps to really minimize those kinds of issues and keeps everybody at ease.

Can you talk about the app’s development? Where did the idea come from?

The app is actually the product of STEM education and FIRST Robotics. The students that are part of our company actually came up with this concept, in speaking with their own school and hearing about this problem. They worked with their school, learned how to program, learned about databases, and actually built the first version of PickUp Patrol for their school. The school absolutely loved it. Subsequently, other schools in the district heard about it and came on board. The idea was this is such a great thing and everybody talked to said they’d love to have it in their school. So we created a company to bring it to schools everywhere.

Credit pickuppatrol.net

Are those students still involved with the company?

Absolutely. The company is made up of four parents and four students, and those four students were all part of the original team that came up with this concept.

Are there school districts in New Hampshire using PickUp Patrol?

Yes, Amherst and Mont Vernon school district are currently using the system.

So this is a cloud-based app. Are there any concerns about security and student information potentially being compromised?

No, actually that was one of the main focuses when we moved the system from its original version into the cloud. Our number one priority was security because we recognized that was a major concern. So we made sure we use every secure protocol and process available to us from a technical standpoint to make sure that information is transferred safely. Every change that’s made sends a confirmation email to the parents, so they know exactly what’s happening.

What about parents who may not be as savvy online or aren’t using these apps? Has there been any pushback from parents who may be resisting the technology?

Not really. Actually, parents tend to embrace it. Most parents have a phone or computer they can submit with. It does support still if you want to send a note in, you can still do that, and the school can enter the information in on your behalf.

So schools aren’t requiring the use of this kind of thing.

They’re not requiring it. They do encourage all parents to use it because it makes it a lot easier for the school, but if there’s a parent that doesn’t have a computer, it certainly doesn’t stop the system from working.

What’s the next step for PickUp Patrol?

The next step is to bring the system nationwide. We recently were part of the Accelerate New Hampshire out of AlphaLoft here in Manchester. That helped us build the company, kind of refine our pitch, refine our business plan. That has really opened up a lot of opportunities for us, including the meeting with the governor. Our plan is to bring the information, bring the system to schools everywhere.