Students Shine in App Competition

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Student teams from Greensburg and South Bend have won "Best in State" honors in the third annual Verizon Innovative App Challenge. South Decatur Junior-Senior High School won for their concept allowing users to securely see their medical records. The grade school team at St. Joseph Grade School took top prize for an app that counts fast food calories and gives users workout choices to burn them off. Verizon Wireless Public Relations Manager Trevor Thomas says, with millions of unfilled STEM-related openings nationwide, the program is an effective way to engage the next generation of high-tech workers.

January 7, 2015

News Release

Greensburg & South Bend, Ind. -- High school students from South Decatur Junior-Senior High School in Greensburg and grade school students from St. Joseph Grade School in South Bend have both earned the title of Best in State in the third Verizon Innovative App Challenge, a national competition in which students design a mobile application concept that addresses a need or problem in their local schools or communities.

The Greensburg student team came up with a healthcare app concept called StrongX Health Records that will allow smartphone users to check on their medical records with a secure app using personal identifiers such as fingerprints, face recognition and voice recognition. The security measures, along with more traditional passwords, will provide secure access to health records via mobile technology.

Brandy Strand, whose class at Decatur Junior-Senior High School in Greensburg won a Best in State challenge, said the winning app concept was developed in her Project Lead the Way biomedical innovation class. The students are all seniors and will now move on to the regional competition. Strand is in her seventh year of teaching and said the challenge provides a great opportunity for young entrepreneurs who are hatching ideas in a classroom setting.

The South Bend student team came up with an app concept called Fast Food Calculator that would address obesity due to overeating and lack of exercise. Food that has been eaten could be entered into the app, which would provide workout choices that could burn the number of calories recently ingested.

In total, 90 teams of creative middle and high school students from across the country have advanced to the next phase of the judging process. A list of the Best in State winners is available at http://appchallenge.tsaweb.org/.

The Verizon Innovative App Challenge was created by in partnership with the Technology Student Association in response to a critical need to inspire student interest in science, technology, engineering and math. Student interest and proficiency in STEM has been stagnant in the United States, especially among women and minorities, although 80 percent of all jobs over the next decade will require STEM skills. Currently, 3 million STEM jobs are unfilled in the U.S., and occupations related to STEM are projected to increase to more than 9 million by 2022.

More than 90 percent of the winners from last year’s Innovative App Challenge expressed interest in pursuing STEM careers after learning coding and launching their winning app in the Google Play store. Roughly 70 percent reported increased creativity, teamwork and communication skills, and content knowledge.

“This contest has exposed students to new skillsets such as learning to collaborate, negotiate and best of all problem solving,” said Lauren Love Wright, Verizon Wireless Michigan /Indiana/Kentucky Region President. “We can’t wait to see which of these creative concepts will become actual working mobile apps that can help make a difference in local communities.”

One of the 2013-14 App Challenge winners, an all-girls team from Resaca Middle School in Los Fresnos, Texas, was invited to the annual White House Science Fair to demonstrate its “Hello Navi” app, which was built to help a blind classmate better navigate the halls at school.

The Path to Best in Nation

The Best in State teams advance to the next round of the competition. On Jan. 16, Verizon and the TSA will name 24 Best in Region middle and high school team winners from the West, Midwest, South and Northeast. Each Best in Region team will earn a $5,000 cash grant for its school to further develop or support a program in science, technology, engineering and math, the so-called STEM subjects.

On Feb. 3, the Innovative App Challenge competition’s final phase will conclude with the selection of eight Best in Nation winners – four middle school and four high school teams – chosen from the Best in Region teams. Best in Nation teams will earn their schools an additional $15,000 cash grant to further develop or support a STEM-related program. Each team member will receive a Samsung tablet, courtesy of Samsung Telecommunications America. In addition, MIT App Inventor Master Trainers from the Center for Mobile Learning at the MIT Media Lab will give the Best in Nation teams onsite and virtual training on coding and app development, using MIT App Inventor to develop the teams’ apps.

Verizon, in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab, will help the students develop their app concepts, making them ready for sharing and distribution. Apps developed during the first two years of the Verizon Innovative App Challenge have been downloaded more than 26,000 times from the Google Play store.

In June, the members of the eight winning teams will be invited to present their apps in person at the National TSA Conference in Dallas, Texas, courtesy of Verizon.

To see the list of the Best in State winners, visit http://verizon.com/appchallenge2014.

About the Verizon Foundation

The Verizon Foundation is focused on accelerating social change by using the company’s innovative technology to help solve pressing problems in education, healthcare and energy management. Since 2000, the Verizon Foundation has invested more than half a billion dollars to improve the communities where Verizon employees work and live. Verizon’s employees are generous with their donations and their time, having logged more than 6.8 million hours of service to make a positive difference in their communities. For more information about Verizon’s philanthropic work, visit www.verizon.com/about/responsibility; or for regular updates, visit the Foundation on Facebook (www.facebook.com/verizonfoundation) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/verizongiving).

Source: Verizon Wireless