SHARP Literacy announced today that it has recently been awarded a $218,000 grant from Governor Tony Evers’ statewide “Badger Bounceback Beyond the Classroom Grant Program.” In partnership with Light the Hoan and Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE), SHARP will use the funds to inspire Milwaukee children through a new addition to its STEAM-based (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) programming with a uniquely Milwaukee focus.   

Since 2017, SHARP Literacy folded computer literacy into its award-winning curriculum with the Design Through Code (DTC) program and, with the new funding, SHARP will expand DTC with “Beyond the Classroom – Code the Hoan: STEAM Scholars.” Through the program, middle school students will tap into their creativity and problem-solving skills and learn about the technology behind the Hoan Bridge’s lighting system. Using LED Lights and Virtual Reality software, the students will learn the principles of coding and critical thinking throughout the innovative program.  

“We know that learning the fundamentals of coding will impact a student’s confidence in reading, math and science and will be critically important to their overall success as a student,” said SHARP President and CEO Lynda Kohler. “We share this vision with others in the community, and it’s our hope that by combining forces, we can make an exponential impact in Milwaukee-area schools.” 

To launch SHARP’s Code the Hoan: STEAM Scholars Program, the organization will partner with Light the Hoan and MSOE. The STEAM Scholars Program represents the first in a suite of educational programs - called Code the Hoan - that will be developed utilizing the technology behind the lights on the Hoan Bridge as a teaching and learning tool. Code the Hoan receives additional support from Northwestern Mutual, JCI, and Direct Supply. “When we set out to light the Hoan, we wanted it to be about more than lights on a bridge. Code the Hoan and the STEAM Scholars Program is an important step in turning a lit bridge into a community asset,” said Michael Hostad, co-founder of Light the Hoan, along with business partner Ian Abston.  

Future plans for the program include developing a mobile learning unit with a scale model of the Hoan Bridge designed and built by MSOE students that will travel from school to school across Milwaukee and a fully online coding and training platform to make both STEAM programming and the Hoan Bridge accessible to students throughout Milwaukee and beyond.

“Through projects like this, MSOE students are transformed into community builders and leaders. They are helping inspire the next generation of STEM students and professionals,” said DeAnna Leitzke, associate VP of academic excellence. “Project-based experiential learning is at the core of the MSOE experience and the CREATE Institute supports campus to ensure projects like this help students develop the skillset and mindset they need to solve the complex challenges of today and tomorrow.” 

Other partners in the project include Milky Way Tech Hub, Foresight Studios and Connect Business Consulting who were instrumental in the implementation of the STEAM Scholars Program.  

“Technology holds promise for the next generation; however, for many students in our community, this opportunity is not top-of-mind or accessible without SHARP’s DTC program,” said Kohler. “We are beyond thrilled to be able to join forces with Light the Hoan and MSOE to empower today’s students with the digital literacy skills that will serve as the foundation for future success.”  

About Beyond the Classroom Grants 
Governor Tony Evers directed $50 million for the Beyond the Classroom Grant Program to assist Wisconsin with additional learning opportunities and mental health support for school-age children from summer 2021 through summer 2022. Funding for this assistance is provided to Wisconsin by the Federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. 

About SHARP Literacy
SHARP Literacy Inc. is a 501(c)(3) Milwaukee nonprofit educational program whose mission is to partner with educators to foster a love of learning and advance children’s futures through innovative STEAM-based experiences and programs. The primary goal of SHARP Literacy is to provide elementary school students with an imaginative learning experience that builds confidence, self-esteem, and a greater awareness of the world. This year SHARP Literacy Inc. will impart foundational literacy skills to thousands of urban elementary school students and educators in 49 schools across Milwaukee, Racine and Waukesha. For more information, visit  

About Light the Hoan
A collective of local business and civic leaders, Light the Hoan Inc. launched a public crowdsourcing campaign in May of 2018 to help raise more than $3.5 million to illuminate the Daniel Hoan Memorial Bridge, the iconic tied-arch bridge spanning nearly two miles across Interstate 794. For more information, visit   

About Milwaukee School of Engineering
MSOE is the university of choice for those seeking an inclusive community of experiential learners driven to solve the complex challenges of today and tomorrow. The independent, non-profit university has about 2,800 students and was founded in 1903. MSOE offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering, business and nursing. Faculty are student-focused experts who bring real-world experience into the classroom. This approach to learning makes students ready now as well as prepared for the future. Longstanding partnerships with business and industry leaders enable students to learn alongside professional mentors, and challenge them to go beyond what’s possible. MSOE graduates are leaders of character, responsible professionals, passionate learners and value creators.