Programmers around New York City will get an opportunity to compete for $50,000 in prizes for designing an app aimed at middle schoolers that will teach them crucial math skills, the New York Daily News reports. The NYC Gap App Challenge, which launched earlier this week, is the first such competition where the school district where the winning apps will be used is one of the sponsors and organizers.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg kicked off the competition by saying that city leaders believed the best tools to educate the city’s students will come from individuals who, by being residents, would be most intimately familiar with the problems faced by the City’s schools. The contest is part of a wide-reaching effort by the the city to beef up its STEM programs and improve student outcomes.
Mayor Bloomberg angered parents when he cracked down on cell phones in schools, but that doesn’t mean that the city can’t marshal the technology available on phones and computers to help kids learn, he said.
The city is beefing up science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, education programs to position the city for the digital jobs of the future, and middle school math is crucial, Bloomberg said.
“Students who fall behind in middle-school math are likely to remain behind through high school and less likely to graduate ready for college,” he said.
The developers can submit their creations until the April deadline. The apps can fall into any genre – games or portable applications suitable for smartphones and tablets. The entries can be aimed at parents, teachers and students themselves.
Winners and runners up will be chosen by two judging panels made up of district officials, school principals, instructors and technology experts. Two submissions will be judged winners with an additional handful taking away the runner-up honors. All those selected will receive a chunk of the $50,000 cash prize.
The winning entries will not be sitting on the shelf for long. There are already plans to put them to use in the city’s “iZone” campuses as early as next academic year.
“We tend to lose some of our students, especially when it gets to middle school,” said schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott. “Our students nowadays are really interested in technology, and I think this is a perfect marriage.”