Nine teams of middle and high school students from across the country learned this week that they were winners in the fourth annual Verizon Innovative App Challenge for mobile app designs. The Verizon Foundation awarded each team $20,000 to be used toward the development or support of STEM-related programming. The teams will now meet with the MIT Media Lab in order to bring their apps to life.
The public was invited to participate in the event for the first time this year by voting for the Fan Favorite App. The winner of that category, Protect Our Parks, received over 150,000 votes. Allowing users the capability to quickly notify the proper authorities of when a park is need of cleaning or repair, POP was created by a group of middle school students at Woodrow Wilson Middle School in Wyandotte, Michigan.
The Technology Student Association put together a panel of judges including educators and industry experts to evaluate and decide on the eight Best In Nation winning teams.
One winning team, from Meyzeek Middle School in Kentucky, created an app called Pharm Alarm which would notify individuals when they need to take a medication or go to an appointment. The app would also notify a loved one so that family members could be aware that medications and appointments were being taken care of, reports Allison Ross for The Courier-Journal.
A separate app created by students from Harrison High School in Westchester, New York, called Pay It Forward, also won, combining an online food ordering app with the ability to donate a meal to a person who needs one.
The competition was created by Verizon through a participation with the Technology Student Association, and presented with the help of MIT Media Labs. Participating student teams nationwide were asked to design a mobile app that could solve a problem within their school or community. The teams did not need to have any coding skills to enter the contest.
A number of this year's submissions dealt with social issues at the community and national levels. Apps focused on issues such as offering help to those with disabilities or chronic health issues, including epilepsy, neurological conditions, autism, and mental health problems. Others looked to help those in poverty.
"Each year, students have raised the bar for the App Challenge and we are continuously impressed by their thoughtful solutions to such a broad range of societal issues," said Justina Nixon-Saintil, director of education and technology programs for the Verizon Foundation. "Getting young people to realize the power of critical thinking and technology to drive change is what this contest is all about," she added, "and these skills will undoubtedly prepare them for jobs of the future as well."
Predictions suggest that the United States will see a shortage of high-skilled workers totaling nearly three million by 2018. While there is currently enough interest in math and science in the education system to fill traditional STEM roles, less than 25% of those students will focus on a STEM-related major in college, and of those who do, 38% of students who enter college on their way to earning a STEM degree will not graduate with one.
The nine winning teams will present their winning apps at the National TSA Conference in Nashville this June.