Nine student teams from middle and high schools around the country have won the 2016-17 Verizon Innovative Learning App Challenge, giving them the opportunity to develop mobile apps they designed. From the 1,800 groups who submitted concepts last fall, eight have been named Best in Nation, and a ninth team has won the Fan Favorite award.
Sponsored by the Verizon Foundation and the Technology Student Association (TSA), the app challenge invites teams of students in grades 6–12 to develop concepts for mobile apps that solve a problem in their community. Each team, comprised of seven to nine students affiliated with either a school or a non-profit group or club, identify their community's problem, investigate if and/or how other apps address similar problems, devise a unique app-based solution, and write an essay and record a video discussing how their app would help solve the problem if developed.
The challenge is designed to build off of students' interest in mobile technology and to give them a project-based opportunity to develop the real-world skills necessary to compete in a 21st-century job market. "The jobs that will define our future are in fields like science, technology, engineering and math, and it is the mission of Verizon Innovative Learning to ensure that all kids have an equal chance at taking advantage of these opportunities that can lead them to better economic futures," said Justina Nixon-Saintil, director of education programs for the Verizon Foundation. "The app challenge, a hands-on learning experience that immerses students in a real world project, is one way we engage students and encourage them to think about how they can solve important problems with technology."
The nine winning apps are:
- Empower, designed by students from Sharon Middle School in Sharon, Mass., will connect people with autism to employers, volunteers, and caretakers in a convenient and effective way.
- Farmersbook, from Meeteetse Junior High in Meeteetse, Wyo., will use a social media-style platform to create an economically and environmentally friendly marketplace for home and hobby gardeners to sell produce to consumers looking for locally-sourced fruits and vegetables.
- In-Reach, a creation of students at North Pole Middle School in North Pole, Alaska, will help people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) log their symptoms to better determine their triggers and provides access to forums about local PTSD specialists.
- Pass It On, from DePere Middle School in DePere, Wisc., will allow students to report both bullying and positive behaviors to school staff through their mobile devices. Pass It On won the Fan Favorite vote from among the 94 Best in State semi-finalists with 11,269 votes.
- See Something. Say Something, developed by students at Taos Academy Charter School, Taos, N.M., hopes to prevent teen suicide by combining real-time crisis intervention with community and social engagement.
- Soteria, created by Girls Who Code in Intuit, Mountain View, Calif., will guide pedestrians through San Francisco on safer commuting routes by using Google Maps and crime data, and includes features such as an automatic rerouter, the San Francisco Police Department Twitter feed, and an emergency call function.
- Take Me There, a project of STEM High School in Redmond, Wash., will be adapted to an individual user's needs to provide accessibility information beyond what a typical mapping tool includes, such as costs, walking distances, and accessibility ramps locations.
- Under My Wing, from Greenwich High School in Greenwich, Conn., will address the high number of assaults among young adults by offering self-defense educational tutorials, emergency contact features, and integrated recording capabilities to increase security.
- Waste Free America, created by students at Capital Day School in Frankfort, Ky., will let grocery stores and restaurants communicate with individual local users, who will then pick up edible food the stores and restaurants cannot sell and transport it directly to agencies in need.
The nine winning teams will be given hands-on training and mentoring by experts at MIT as they build their apps, which the students will demonstrate this summer at the National TSA Conference. In addition, these teams win a $15,000 award for their school or group and an all-expenses-paid trip to the TSA conference for each team member and a parent/guardian. The Best in State teams each receive a $5,000 award for their school or non-profit organization, as well as a mobile tablet for every team member.
This is the fifth year the Verizon Innovative Learning App Challenge has been held (and the fifth year Science NetLinks staff has assisted with judging). Apps developed by past winners (including apps to get girls interested in STEM, coordinate ridesharing, help visually impaired students navigate school spaces, connect people with charities, and find local hiking trails) can be downloaded from the Google Play store.
Are you interested in developing an app? Stay tuned for information about upcoming challenges later in the year. In the meantime, check out past app challenge winners and Science NetLinks' collection of STEM Apps and get started learning some coding with Hopscotch: Coding for Kids App, which will help you learn how to make your own games.
Photo Credit: Clipart.com.
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