North Texas High School Celebrates Innovative App Challenge Win

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Students from North Hills Prep High School in Irving, Texas, have been named a “Best in Nation” winner in the Verizon Innovative App Challenge for their “Leave No Trace” app concept. Once developed, the app will encourage the prudent use of electricity, water and heat to reduce energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. The team of seven students is one of only eight teams across the nation to win the title.

The Verizon Innovative App Challenge charged teams of middle- and high-school students across the country with developing concepts for mobile applications that could provide solutions to real problems in their schools or communities. The competition is designed to help boost student engagement and interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The students learned of the contest through online research and were inspired to create the concept for their app that could support the environment due to their experience with Model UN. Model UN, or Model United Nations, is a student organization that many high schools participate in. Students attend mock United Nations conferences as “delegates” from various countries and debate global issues that would typically be discussed in a real UN assembly.  The team wanted to help promote energy conservation, as well as combat climate change and encourage responsible environmental policy.

The team found it challenging to condense their ideas into a three-minute submission video. They also had to ensure their idea had not already been used by other existing apps, which caused them to change their concept several times.

They also learned how to utilize each other’s diverse skills and talents to accomplish different aspects of their work.

“I found it hard to figure out how we could all make an app that could truly have an effect on the world,” said student Niharika Jetty. “After working as a group, we realized that we all had different ideas and abilities that could come together and solve a major problem in the world.”

At the celebratory event in Irving, Verizon presented North Hills Prep with a $20,000 grant to help build the app and advance STEM education. In addition, each of the team members received a new Samsung Galaxy Tab, courtesy of Samsung Telecommunications America.

“It is such a rare and exciting opportunity to work with scholars who are teaching me more than I can teach them, and to see how naturally they do it,” said team advisor and history teacher Samuel Bandstra.

The team is now working to develop its app concept into an actual app. To build the app, they will learn how to use MIT App Inventor, with hands-on support and training from Verizon employees and members of the MIT App Inventor Training Corps. Verizon will then help the team share and distribute its finished apps via a platform such as Google Play.

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.

In addition to North Hills Preparatory School, the other “Best in Nation” high schools include:
•    Bartlett High School – Bartlett, Ill.
•    Westford Academy – Westford, Mass.
•    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.

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