The Potential of Us: Verizon Innovative App Challenge promotes student creativity and STEM education

By: Donna Epps

Usually you come to this space to learn about Verizon’s view on various policy issues. While we’re always happy to share those, today I want to tell you about something we’re even more excited about. I want to tell you about the amazing job that a group of kids from the Bronx Academy of Promise did in our Verizon Innovative App Challenge.

Beginning in 2012, we have challenged middle and high school students through this program to design a mobile application concept that addresses an urgent need or problem in their local schools or communities. The kids from the Bronx Academy of Promise delivered that -- and then some! -- by creating a Best In Nation-winning app concept that was designed to help build math skills for fourth to eighth-grade students in their school. The app these young men and women built provides students with a fun way to practice basic math computations using a Greek Mythology-themed game. With each level increasing in difficulty, QuestMath challenges students to keep trying and provides helpful tutorials to review. Fun facts about Greek myths are provided along the way. QuestMath is now available in the Google Play store.

We’re proud of these kids, and we’re proud that our App Challenge also expanded their horizons in ways they never imagined.

The Verizon Innovative App Challenge is a national competition for middle and high school students, designed to help address the critical need to inspire interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and equipping them with real-world skills like problem solving, critical thinking and collaboration. Student 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. Students who participate in the app challenge are more likely to pursue a STEM career: 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. And even better than that? The app challenge also helps to increase the STEM pipeline for women and minorities; as you might imagine, we at Verizon think that’s a really cool thing.

Stories like this remind us to step outside the beltway from time to time, if nothing else, to be reminded of the amazing potential that technology can help foster. This once-failing school, located in a low-income community, was one of 10 Verizon Innovative App Challenge 2013 national winners and was featured in Verizon’s recent "The Potential of Us” national advertising campaign. Our sincere thanks to the Bronx Academy of Promise for participating in our Innovative App Challenge, and congratulations on a job very well done.

See the 2015 Verizon Innovative App Challenge winners here.

Donna Epps directs Verizon’s domestic public policy team, as well as relationships with our external partners. Prior to her current position, Ms. Epps worked in Verizon’s Federal Regulatory Affairs group where she developed and advocated Verizon’s federal regulatory policy positions on key issues facing the communications industry, with an emphasis on issues related to competition, economic regulation, and consumer protection.