L. Arthi Krishnaswami, an alumna (MDes ’06) and current Distinguished Adjunct of Professional Practice at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design, was recently awarded a US Patent for “RyeCatcher.” Officially founded in 2014, RyeCatcher is a web-based application that supports the whole child—academic, behavior, social, emotional, health and wellness—by bringing schools, parents, students and service providers together around actionable data. RyeCatcher enables school districts to identify student and family needs , connect them to the right resources, design whole-child intervention plans, track intervention data, and adapt in real-time.
The initial prototypes for RyeCatcher were originally conceived in 2012 during the US Government’s MyData initiative, which organized brainstorming sessions with experts to find ways to make open data work more efficiently for the public. At these sessions, Krishnaswami saw an opportunity for students based on her own experiences with her brother.
“My brother was a special needs student when he was in school and one opportunity I always noticed was how difficult it was for him to get connected with the support and services that he needed,” said Krishnaswami.
Before designing anything, Krishnaswami tested the idea of a service provider database for Special Education families. Once in the field, “the idea was not initially met with praise,” said Krishnaswami.
“I realized that what had started as a service provider database, needed to become a tool that coordinates services, students, families and providers with each other. We needed a tool that supported the behavioral, social, and emotional health for the child and their family in and out of school.
“The needs of a student may not represent what the student is really looking for. We had to develop software that supported the behavioral, social, and emotional health for the child and their family in and out of school.”
After developing an 11-screen prototype with Ashley Deal, Krishnaswami presented RyeCatcher at the White House Datapalooza. The work resonated with districts engaged in school turnaround, including Aspire Public Schools.
In 2013, Krishnaswami started to pursue RyeCatcher full time. Without ever having to raise venture capital, Krishnaswami has presented RyeCatcher at SxSWedu and won a MacArthur Trust Challenge Prize. After helping more that 23,000 students through RyeCatcher, Krishnaswami realized that they needed to purse a patent for the platform.
“It’s so important that students and families are able to keep and protect their data,” said Krishnaswami. “As we focused on the technology, we knew we wanted to maintain transparency and go through the challenging process of obtaining a software patent.”
Since 2014, Krishnaswami has been sponsoring projects at the School of Design that has led to numerous extensions and improvements to RyeCatcher, like a mobile application for the platform. This year also marks the second year Krishnaswami, whose work has been published by Oxford University Press, NOVA Science publishers, the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and others, will be teaching Design for Social Innovation at the School of Design as well as her first year as an official Distinguished Adjunct of Professional Practice.
“Merging policy, design, technology and business is at the heart of social innovation,” added Krishnaswami, “Carnegie Mellon University is one of the few campuses that you can get exposure to policy, tech, business, and design.
“The School of Design is a truly interdisciplinary and robust design department.”