- The Karaoke team, from Granger Middle School (left to right): Jazmine Mendoza, Esmene Fisk, and Alexus Padilla.
On both sides of the Cascades, Washington middle and high school students recently competed in an app development contest. The first ever Youth Apps Challenge is a statewide competition designed to build student interest in computer science education and careers. Washington state is a hub for high-paying tech jobs, but lags in production of homegrown computing talent. Statewide, only one in 14 Washington public high schools offers an AP computer science course. The Technology Alliance organized both contests, and funding came from the Washington Dept. of Commerce’s Broadband Office and the National Telecommunications & Information Administration.
At the eastern Washington event, award-winning teams included students from Ochoa Middle School in Pasco who built an app to help people remember to take their medicine and go to the doctor. Other winners included students from Spokane’s Sacajawea Middle School who developed an app to help people control addiction. A full list of participants and projects from the eastern Washington contest is available here.
- Garfield High students present their app
In the subsequent western Washington contest, prize winners included a team from Garfield High School in Seattle who developed a racing game with a realistic physics engine; and a a group from Woodinville’s Timbercrest Junior High School who fashioned an app for people who need rescue or emergency services. A full list of participants and projects from the western Washington contest is available here.
Submissions were judged by software developers from the Technology Alliance’s Ada Developers Academy. “The Youth Apps Challenge gave students the opportunity to develop their own idea for an app and learn what it takes to build it.
“We are inspiring students to become future software developers and entrepreneurs,” said Susannah Malarkey, Executive Director of the Technology Alliance. “From app concept development to design and user research, students are motivated to be creators of technology, not just consumers, and to solve real world problems they care about.”
From the Technology Alliance press release:
“The creativity and technical skill of these young competitors is beyond impressive,” said Governor Jay Inslee. “These students developed apps that solve problems, entertain and inform. They aren’t our future inventors and innovators – they’re innovating right now!”
The challenge was funded by a federal Recovery Act grant administered through a contract with the Broadband Office at the Washington State Department of Commerce. During the Youth Apps Challenge, teams generated app ideas that solved problems, identified user profiles and market potential, developed prototypes, and pitched their apps to audiences.
The Technology Alliance made curriculum and other resources available to support educators who wished to provide instruction in app development in their classrooms. The featured curriculum was developed by the U.K.-based organization Apps for Good and adapted by the Technology Alliance for use in school, after school, or as part of a summer program. The curriculum is aligned with Common Core standards.
“From the first day we met in February to the last day in mid-May, our Technology Alliance’s Youth Apps Challenge club kids were so excited to be a part of this experience,” said Sue Eggert, Computer Applications Teacher at Sacajawea Middle School. “Many of these students will likely go on to take a programming class in high school or college, given the opportunity.”
Demand for apps teacher training is very high, so the Technology Alliance plans to hold another challenge and train additional teachers over the next year. For more information, visit www.technology-alliance.com/stemchallenge/youthapps.html and www.appsforgood.