According to findings from US News & World Report, high school student interest and proficiency in STEM has been stagnant in the United States since 2009, especially among women and minorities, who are also still overwhelmingly underrepresented in careers focusing on science, technology, engineering and math. Furthermore, although 80 percent of all jobs over the next decade will require STEM skills, currently, 3 million STEM jobs remain unfilled in the U.S., and occupations related to STEM are projected to increase to more than 9 million by 2022.
To encourage interest in these fields and help schools develop successful STEM programs to prepare students for opportunities that demand the strong analytical and critical thinking skills often required in STEM jobs, Verizon kicked off its Innovative App Challenge in 2012 to provide an engaging and empowering learning experience and show students exciting new possibilities for their futures.
Fast forward to Lime Kiln Middle School in 2015, where a casual conversation between friends quickly morphed into high gear and a team of five girls from Fulton, Maryland set their minds to developing an app concept that would solve a real need in their school and community – matching teens with age-appropriate volunteer opportunities to help fulfill the service hours required by many schools.
Inspired by Verizon’s nationwide competition, and encouraged by Gifted and Talented Resource teacher Tracy Spillman, the girls won Best in State in January, advanced to Best in Region, and were named one of the eight Best in Nation winners in this annual competition. Their hope of creating an app that would take into account the busy schedules of teens, as well as their interests, will now become a reality as they work with coaches from MIT Media Labs to bring their concept to life and have the opportunity to market “Volunteer Me” on Google Play.
In addition to each of the five girls receiving a free Samsung tablet, the team will travel to the annual Technology Student Association (TSA) conference in Dallas this June, compliments of Verizon, where they’ll present VolunteerMe to hundreds of students, parents, and STEM enthusiasts in attendance.
But the real reward is far greater than the tablets and the free trip the students received. Their achievement earned a $20,000 grant to help further develop STEM curricula at their school.
Congrats and well done!