Two Local Student Teams Named Best in State in Verizon Innovative App Challenge

By: Contributor Last Updated: January 23, 2014

Students from New Prairie Middle School and New Albany High School Set to Compete for National Title in Contest Aimed at Boosting Interest in STEM Subjects

verizon-app-challengeStudent teams from New Prairie Middle School in New Carlisle, Ind., and New Albany High School in New Albany, Ind., are two of 80 winners of the Verizon Innovative App Challenge, a national competition in which students develop a mobile application concept that addresses a need or problem in their local schools or communities.

Now in its second year, the Verizon Innovative App Challenge selected the best app concepts submitted by student teams across the U.S. and named qualifying teams from one high school and one middle school in each state as Best in State winners. The teams from New Prairie Middle School and New Albany High School were chosen from nearly 1,300 teams nationwide who entered the contest. They are two of 80 Best in State teams that will go on to vie for the titles of Best in Region, and ultimately, Best in Nation.

The New Prairie Middle School team outlined an app to teach students the benefits of recycling. The New Albany High School team app would calculate the fastest or shortest route to various locations, so as to improve vehicle energy use efficiency and reduce harmful byproducts.

The competition was created by the Verizon Foundation in partnership with the Technology Student Association to encourage students to use technology to help solve local social issues. Student teams from across the nation – and with a wide variety of backgrounds and interests – submitted more than 770 app concepts, which made selecting one winning middle school team and one winning high school team from each state highly competitive. Almost 40 percent of submitted entries were from underserved schools.

“We saw some fantastic creativity and innovation in the first Innovative App Challenge last year, and this second competition is shaping up to be similarly exciting,” said Andrea Meyer, Verizon Wireless. “It is delightful to see children as young as sixth graders identifying problems and conceptualizing solutions that can be developed into a usable app.”

Best in State teams are eligible for the next round of the competition on Feb. 4, in which Verizon and the Technology Student Association will name 24 Best in Region middle and high school team winners from the states in each of the West, Midwest, South and East regions. Each team will earn a $5,000 cash grant for its school; the faculty advisors of winning teams, along with up to two colleagues, will participate in an online course called “Teaching App Creation with MIT App Inventor,” taught by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab’s Center for Mobile Learning’s app development experts.

On Feb. 19, the Innovative App Challenge competition’s final phase will conclude with the selection of eight Best in Nation winners, chosen from the pool of 24 Best in Region teams. Best in Nation winning teams will earn their schools an additional $15,000 cash grant to further develop or support a program in science, technology, engineering and math, the so-called STEM subjects. And each team member will receive a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, courtesy of Samsung Telecommunications America. In addition, the MIT Media Lab’s Center for Mobile Learning will provide onsite and virtual training on coding and support using MIT App Inventor to the Best in Nation teams as they develop their apps, and Verizon will help actualize students’ app concepts, making them ready for sharing and distribution. One avenue for students to share their apps will be the Google Play store.

In June, the members of the eight winning teams will be invited to present their apps in person – on their new tablets – at the 2014 National TSA Conference in Washington, D.C., courtesy of Verizon.

The Best in State teams will soon have access to a self-guided app-development course developed by the MIT Media Lab’s App Inventor team. The course will teach the teams how to take their apps from concept to completed, user-test app, under the direction of each team’s faculty advisor.

The Verizon Foundation is focused on improving teaching and learning, particularly through the use of mobile technologies to support STEM education. Since 2000, the Foundation has invested more than $300 million to support education initiatives.