Science

Students Design STEM-Focused Apps to Tackle Community Problems

By Liana Loewus — June 27, 2014 1 min read

This week, tech-giant Verizon announced the winners of its “Innovative App Challenge,” a contest in which teams of middle and high school students design concepts for STEM-focused mobile apps to help people in their communities.

Students don’t have to be particularly tech-savvy or know how to code to be involved—they just need to come up with a creative concept that’s reflective of a real-world need. Verizon gives each of the four middle school and four high school winning teams $15,000 cash grants and support from the MIT Media Lab to build out the apps. The winning students also each receive a Samsung tablet.

This is the third year of the competition, which is aimed at boosting students’ science, technology, engineering, and math skills. Nearly 1,200 teams provided entries.

So, which apps won? Below are some highlights (you can find the full list here):

Leave No Trace: High school students from North Hills Preparatory School in Irving, Texas, designed an app that tells users about their personal carbon footprint and allows them to compare it to the per capita average in other countries. Users put in information from their water and electricity bills, and the app converts that into tons of carbon dioxide emitted.

Tactillium: This app, designed by a high school team out of Westford Academy in Westford, Mass., lets students perform chemistry experiments in a 3-D virtual lab. For instance, students can move the lab equipment to watch flame tests and chemical reactions. The app is geared toward schools that lack science equipment and younger students.

Hello Navi: Designed by students at Resaca Middle School in Los Fresnos, Texas, this app helps blind and visually impaired students navigate their school building. The student talks into the app to request help getting to a particular location.

Super Science Girl: Students from Jefferson Township Middle School in Oak Ridge, N.J., created an app to try to get more girls interested in STEM. In it, a female superhero leads users through experiments and games.

The apps are available on Google Play. According to Verizon, the apps created through the contest over the last few years have been downloaded more than 14,000 times. Registration for next year’s contest starts Aug. 4.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.