Verizon Recognizes Rice Middle School Students for Innovative App Challenge Win

On March 17, Verizon joined local leaders in Plano, Texas to celebrate the Rice Middle School Best in Nation win in the Verizon Innovative App Challenge. The team of eight seventh- and eighth-graders at Rice is one of just eight teams from across the nation to win the title.

The students earned their win by developing an app concept called “Mind Glass.” Once developed, Mind Glass will offer students with dyslexia options for customizing text to make it easier for them to read and comprehend.

The inspiration for the app concept came from team member Rishi Shridharan’s science project from the previous school year. As part of his project, Rishi conducted a survey with the goal of seeing whether changing the appearance of text could help people with reading disabilities better understand the words on the page. When the results came back showing that they did, Rishi decided that something needed to be done to help.

“It’s human psychology that when we see a person we think is less fortunate, we tend to avoid them … and they feel left out,” Rishi recently told The Dallas Morning News in an interview. “But we’re not giving them the equal respect and support that they need. Without this, that’s where dyslexia becomes a problem.”

With less than a month before the App Challenge deadline, Rishi and seven schoolmates worked tirelessly to develop the final concept outline for the app. In the end, team Mind Glass’s idea was chosen as a winner.

At the celebratory event, Verizon Wireless region president in Central Texas Michelle Miller presented Rice Middle School with a $20,000 grant to help build the app and advance STEM education.

The team is now working to develop their concept into an actual app. To build their app, they will learn 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. Verizon will then help the team share and distribute their finished apps via a platform such as the Google Play store

In late June, the team will present their finished app at the 2015 National TSA Conference in Dallas.

Audrey Lundy is a public relations manager with Verizon Wireless. Follow her on Twitter at: @VZWaudrey.

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