New Jersey Students Cultivate Girls’ Interest in STEM Education

Innovative App Challenge winners aim to help level the playing field in STEM-related workforce.

By on May 19, 2014

According to GettingSmart.com, women represent 50 percent of the population and 49 percent of the U.S. workforce, but they hold only 24 percent of jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Knowing this, the students at Jefferson Township Middle School in Oak Ridge, N.J., decided it was time to fuel girls’ interest in STEM education and help close the gender gap within those industries.

Students at Jefferson Township worked together to develop “Super Science Girl,” an app concept that aims to drum up interest in STEM-related activities and to encourage young girls, ages 8 to 11, to pursue careers in those fields. As part of the Verizon Innovative App Challenge, which encourages middle and high school students to apply STEM education and knowledge to develop a mobile app concept that addresses challenges in their schools or communities, the team’s app design was one of eight winning entries out of nearly 1,300 submissions from across the country.

To celebrate the students’ winning design, Verizon representatives recently joined Jefferson Township Middle School faculty to recognize the middle schoolers and their “Best in Nation” win.

“I am thrilled that my students choose to enter the Verizon Innovative App Challenge, because it afforded them the opportunity to participate in experiential learning that taps into critical thinking, problem solving and real-world experiences. Lessons like this are crucial in 21st century education,” said Jefferson Middle School team teacher Nancy Harris.

The young app inventors are now focusing on developing their concept into a working app. To build it, they learned to code and how to use the MIT App Inventor, with hands-on support and training from Verizon employees and Kristin Violette, a member of the MIT App Inventor Training Corps. The app will cultivate girls’ interest in STEM subjects through a variety of fun games and exciting experiments and will encourage parents and teachers to include STEM education and activities in their child’s life.

“As a woman scientist myself, I was thrilled my students choose to focus on the noble goal of getting girls interested in STEM,” added Harris. “It is so important that all students, no matter what their gender, feel that they can pursue what interests them.”

As one of the App Challenge’s winning teams, the students earned their school $20,000 in grants from the Verizon Foundation, which will be used to help build the team’s app and advance STEM education among girls at the school. The winning team of inventors also received new Samsung Galaxy Note tablets, courtesy of Samsung Telecommunications America.

In late June, members of the Jefferson Township winning team will be invited to present their app in person at the 2014 National Technology Student Association Conference in Washington, D.C.

In addition to Jefferson Township Middle School, the other “Best in Nation” middle schools include:

  • Cheney Middle School – West Fargo, N.D.
  • Resaca Middle School – Los Fresnos, Texas
  • Open Window School – Bellevue, Wash.

This year’s “Best in Nation” high school winners include:

For the 2014-2015 Innovative App Challenge, teams of five to seven students and a faculty advisor from any public, private or parochial middle can enter from August 4 through November 14.

Tags: Verizon Innovative App Challenge, STEM education, mobile apps, education, Jefferson Township Middle School