PHS students win W.Va. competition

PARKERSBURG – A student team from Parkersburg High School was named the West Virginia winner of the Verizon Innovative App Challenge, a national competition in which students develop a mobile application concept that addresses a need or problem in their local schools or communities.

Now in its second year, the Verizon Innovative App Challenge selected the best app concepts submitted by student teams across the U.S. and named qualifying teams from one high school and one middle school in each state as Best in State winners, a press release states.

The teams were chosen from nearly 1,300 teams nationwide who entered the contest. The PHS team is one of 81 Best in State teams that will go on to vie for the titles of Best in Region and Best in Nation.

Ninth- through twelfth-graders from PHS designed the app EduNation to help students with similar ambitions develop a tactical plan to follow to higher education.

The competition was created by the Verizon Foundation in partnership with the Technology Student Association to encourage students to use technology to help solve local social issues. Student teams from across the nation and with a wide variety of backgrounds and interests submitted more than 770 app concepts. Almost 40 percent of submitted entries were from underserved schools.

“We saw some fantastic creativity and innovation in the first Innovative App Challenge last year, and this second competition is shaping up to be similarly exciting,” said Mark Frazier, president of Ohio-Pennsylvania-West Virginia Region, Verizon Wireless. “It is delightful to see children as young as sixth-graders identifying problems and conceptualizing solutions that can be developed into a usable app.”

PHS is now eligible for the next round of the competition, in which Verizon and the Technology Student Association on Feb. 4 will name 24 Best in Region middle and high school team winners from the states in the West, Midwest, South and East regions.

Each team will earn a $5,000 cash grant for its school, and faculty advisers of winning teams, along with up to two colleagues, will participate in an online course called “Teaching App Creation with MIT App Inventor,” taught by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab’s Center for Mobile Learning’s app development experts.

On Feb. 19, the Innovative App Challenge competition’s final phase will conclude with the selection of eight Best in Nation winners, chosen from the pool of 24 Best in Region teams. Best in Nation winning teams will earn their schools an additional $15,000 cash grant to further develop or support a program in science, technology, engineering and math, the so-called STEM subjects.

Each team member will receive a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, courtesy of Samsung Telecommunications America.

In addition, the MIT Media Lab’s Center for Mobile Learning will provide onsite and virtual training on coding and support using MIT App Inventor to the Best in Nation teams as they develop their apps. Verizon will help actualize students’ app concepts, making them ready for sharing and distribution. One avenue for students to share their apps will be the Google Play store.

In June, the members of the eight winning teams will be invited to present their apps in person – on their new tablets – at the 2014 National TSA Conference in Washington, D.C., courtesy of Verizon.

The Best in State teams will soon have access to a self-guided app-development course developed by the MIT Media Lab’s App Inventor team. The course will teach the teams how to take their apps from concept to completion and how to user-test the app, under the direction of each team’s faculty adviser.

The Verizon Foundation is focused on improving teaching and learning, particularly through the use of mobile technologies to support STEM education, according to a press release. Since 2000, the foundation has invested more than $300 million to support education initiatives.