Introducing the Verizon Innovative Learning app challenge Best in State winners

2017’s new crop of amazing student app designers

This year marks the fifth annual Verizon Innovative Learning app challenge, an initiative of the Verizon Foundation, which delivers technology and immersive STEM opportunities to underserved schools nationwide. The contest engages thousands of middle and high school students across the country to answer an important question: What problem in your community can you solve with technology?

Ninety-four teams and their impressive ideas were chosen as the 2016-2017 Best in State winners. Kids solved for a wide range of issues facing the environment, public safety, mental health, hunger, diet and nutrition, and disease management.

Each winning team will receive $5,000 for their school or sponsoring nonprofit organization’s STEM program. Next, they’ll compete to win the title of Best in Nation, which includes an additional $15,000 prize and the opportunity to work with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) engineers to learn how to code and bring their award-winning concepts to life.

The contest isn’t limited to seasoned programmers. The app challenge is accessible to any student who wants to make the world a better place. Participating students have the opportunity to collaborate with other visionary peers, gain experience thinking like entrepreneurs and strengthen their communication and persuasion skills.

The simple requirements for entry produced some stunning ideas from middle and high-schoolers, including:

  • Stand By Me: a wearable bracelet app designed by a California team that helps asthma patients keep track of their health, so that they can adjust medication and activity accordingly.
  • Smile More: an app designed for people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to connect with support, resources, and others who also suffer from PTSD.
  • Silent 911: a safety app from a Rhode Island team that allows users to call police in domestic violence and other dangerous situations, without alerting the perpetrator that a call has been placed.
  • Pantry Pal: an app that connects would-be donors to shelters and food pantries in their area so that users can give precisely what is needed at each specific location
  • Dreamz: an app designed by a New York team that emits delta and alpha waves to help troubled sleepers fall asleep and wake up more easily. 

To date, more than 33,000 students have participated in the app challenge. Even more exciting is the passion the competition sparks in kids: 88 percent of winners are likely to pursue STEM careers and 60 percent of winning students surveyed were more interested in computer programming subjects after competing in the challenge.

To compete, students submit a three-minute video and essay series describing their proposed mobile app, how it would work and why their particular app is necessary for the social betterment of their school or community.

Winners are selected by a team of educators and STEM professionals chosen by the Technology Student Association (TSA), a partner in the app challenge.

What happens next? Key dates and next steps in this year’s challenge

This year’s Best in State winners are now in the running to be selected for the next award category, Best in Region, and if chosen will present their projects via a live webinar to panel of media, education, and STEM experts.

In addition to formal judging, teams are encouraged to rally their communities and compete for the coveted Fan Favorite award, chosen by popular vote. The Best in State winner’s concept video submissions are posted on the app challenge website and teams invite their local communities to vote for their favorite idea. Fan Favorite voting takes place from January 16 through February 14.

The winning team will receive an additional $15,000 STEM grant and the opportunity to work with MIT engineers to turn their apps into reality.

To stay updated on the impressive entries to the Verizon Innovative Leaning app challenge and vote in the “Fan Favorite” contest, visit

Best in State Winners Middle School

  • Where's My School Bus?, Holtville Middle School, Alabama
  • In-Reach, North Pole Middle School, Alaska
  • Future Folder, Greenfield Junior High, Arizona
  • SmartRnger, Forest Heights STEM Academy, Arkansas
  • StandByMe, Joe Walker Middle School, California
  • Care Packager, Cimarron Middle School, Colorado
  • Anxiety Arrester, St. Mary St. Joseph School, Connecticut
  • Drive Safe, Howard University School of Mathematics and Science, District of Columbia
  • Secure Knight, Postlethwait Middle School, Delaware
  • Cross-Border Telemedicine, Pine Crest School, Florida
  • Runners App Management (RAM), Thomson Middle School, Georgia
  • CF Connect, Maui Waena Intermediate School, Hawaii
  • Incenti-bucks, Roosevelt Middle School, Illinois
  • Allergy Aid, Yorktown Middle School, Indiana
  • Iowa Trash Companion, Waukee Middle School, Iowa
  • PosiText, Lakewood Middle School, Kansas
  • Waste Free America, Capital Day School, Kentucky
  • STUDY BUDDY, Archbishop Hannan High School, Louisiana
  • Emploi, Glenwood Middle School, Maryland
  • Empower, Sharon Middle School, Massachusetts
  • Suspicious Behavior, Washtenaw International Middle Academy, Michigan
  • Home Alone, Twin Oaks Middle School, Minnesota
  • Lunch-o-matic, Old Towne Middle School, Mississippi
  • S.A.F.E., Robert H. Sperreng Middle School, Missouri
  • Checkin for Hunters/Hikers Assurance Technology (CHHAT), Big Timber Grade School, Montana
  • Smile Time, Westside Middle School, Montana
  • EDUniverse, Hyde Park Middle School, Nevada
  • Community Buddy, The White Field School, New Hampshire
  • Destination Exploration, Franklin Avenue Middle School, New Jersey
  • SchoolBoard, Mountain View Middle School, New Mexico
  • App Engineers, I.S. 98 Bay Academy, New York
  • Trackrz, Hilburn Academy, North Carolina
  • Get A Pet, Liberty Middle School, North Dakota
  • CSA-College Scout App, Felicity Middle School, Ohio
  • Swap Do Nation, Union 7th Grade Center, Oklahoma
  • Garden Aid, Northley Middle School, Pennsylvania
  • FoodFinder, Western Hills Middle School, Rhode Island
  • HearingHelper, Banks Trail Middle School, South Carolina
  • FitFresh, Mt. Vernon School District, South Dakota
  • Ripple, Girls Preparatory School, Tennessee
  • Strings, Oakwood Intermediate, Texas
  • eDebate, Olympus Junior High, Utah
  • Reuse-it, East Montpelier Elementary Parent Teacher Neighbor Org, Vermont
  • CityQuest, Tuckahoe Middle School, Virginia
  • Hope, Love, Care, Annie Wright Day School, Washington
  • WV2Volunteer, Clay County Middle School, West Virginia,
  • Pass It On, De Pere Middle School, Wisconsin
  • Farmersbook, Meeteetse Junior High, Wyoming 

High School

  • Panagi, Shades Valley High School, Alabama
  • Phantom Buster, Lathrop High School, Alaska
  • XChange, Camelback High School, Arizona
  • MHS Counseling, Manila High School, Arkansas
  • Soteria, Girls Who Code Intuit, California
  • We the People, STEM School and Academy, Colorado
  • Under My Wing, Greenwich High School, Connecticut
  • Intercom, School Without Walls, District of Columbia
  • Senior Spotlight, Sussex Central High School, Delaware
  • HungerAid, McArthur High School, Florida
  • The Breeze, Kell High School, Georgia
  • Wiki Delivery, James Campbell High School, Hawaii
  • E-App, Ridgevue High School, Idaho
  • Save Our City, De La Salle Institute, Illinois
  • NUTOWN, Zionsville Community High School, Indiana
  • Pocket Garage, East High School, Iowa
  • History, Maps and Cultures, Leavenworth High School, Kansas
  • Hear Me, Betsy Layne High School, Kentucky
  • EZPrep, Haynes Academy for Advanced Studies, Louisiana
  • Opportuniteen, Gray-New Gloucester High School, Maine
  • PantryPal, The Academy of the Holy Cross, Maryland
  • Trace, Science Club for Girls, Massachusetts
  • Back to Bacteria, Troy High School, Michigan
  • GovBuddy, Eden Prairie High School, Minnesota
  • Be the Plug, Career Development Center, Mississippi
  • Virtual Camera Anatomy Topography, Blue Springs High School, Missouri
  • Classroom Assistant, Sentinel High School, Montana
  • Farmhand, Johnson-Brock Public School, Nebraska
  • Smile More, Southwest Career and Technical Academy, Nevada
  • Agent Java, Windham High School, New Hampshire
  • SCIO, West Windsor Plainsboro High School North, New Jersey
  • See Something. Say Something., Taos Academy Charter School, New Mexico
  • Illustria, Brooklyn Technical High School, New York
  • Fiscal Empire, Ashe County High School, North Carolina
  • Diatrack, Dickinson High School, North Dakota
  • Alert U, Westlake High School, Ohio
  • HandycAPP, Oklahoma Christian Academy, Oklahoma
  • SUR+, Woodrow Wilson High School, Oregon
  • CaringCloset, Cochranton Junior Senior High School, Pennsylvania
  • Silent 911, Barrington High School, Rhode Island
  • CPR Buddy, Academy for the Arts, Science and Technology, South Carolina
  • Buddy Central, Montgomery Central High School, Tennessee
  • DoctDocs, The Hockaday School, Texas
  • Pocket Closet, Jordan Applied Technology Center, Utah
  • Spotted, STEM All Stars, Virginia
  • Takemethere, STEM High School, Washington
  • Flood Protection, Pocahontas County High School, West Virginia
  • Ballot Buddy, New London High School, Wisconsin