Inspired by a class assignment, a team of six Illinois high school students had the goal of tracking food and exercise to encourage fitness and weight loss through social networking. The result? An app concept called Fittastick, which won Bartlett High School one of eight “Best in Nation” awards in this year’s Verizon Innovative App Challenge.
The challenge encourages middle and high school students to apply their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) knowledge to develop a mobile app concept that addresses challenges in their schools or communities. Four middle schools and four high schools were named Best in Nation; each received a $20,000 grant for their school and Samsung tablets for each team member.
“Our first unit of the year dealt with biochemistry,” said Phillip Church, the students’ advisor. “As part of the unit, students were asked to calculate their estimated calorie requirements for the day based on their activity levels. We posted those to our class social media site so students could create a population analysis. It was a great connection for them to tie in social media.”
With only six weeks left to develop Fittastick, the Bartlett students have been using the resources made available to them to learn on the fly, including the challenging process of debugging the app to assure it performs to the best of its ability. To build their app, they are learning to code and how to use MIT App Inventor, with hands-on support and training from Verizon employees and members of the MIT App Inventor Training Corps.
“Our goal right now is to finish the food query app and the calendar app that allow users to log and share their calorie info,” said Church. “Next will be the graphing app and then we will tie it all into social media [platforms], like Twitter.”
The team has been working twice per week during their lunch hours, and at home during their free time, to complete the app. With the help of Verizon, the app, once finalized, will be available to download through Google Play.
“The challenge’s real prize for us is seeing how students use technology as a tool in solving some real problems in their communities,” said Brian Pascoe, President, Illinois/Wisconsin Region, Verizon Wireless.
The team of students won a total of $20,000 in grants to help support STEM education programs at their school. The students and advisor each received a complimentary Samsung Galaxy Tab courtesy of Samsung Telecommunications America. This summer, the team will present its finished app at the 2014 National Technology Student Association Conference in Washington, D.C., June 27 – July 1.
Bartlett High School plans to use its $20,000 grant to expand and improve various departments, classes and clubs around the school, and update existing STEM-based materials.
In addition to Bartlett High School, the other “Best in Nation” high schools include:
- Westford Academy – Westford, Mass.
- North Hills Preparatory School – Irving, Texas
- Helena High School – Helena, Mont.
This year’s “Best in Nation” middle school winners include:
- Cheney Middle School – West Fargo, N.D.
- Jefferson Township Middle School – Oak Ridge, N.J.
- Resaca Middle School – Los Fresnos, Texas
- Open Window School – Bellevue, Wash.
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.