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Miami students win 'Best in State' in Verizon Innovative App Challenge


Students from Shenandoah Middle School in MIami (see their video above) and the iTECH Academy at Miami Springs Senior High have earned “Best In State” honors in the Verizon Innovative App Challenge, advancing toward a chance at $20,000 in grants for their schools and many other rewards. 

In its third year, the national competition developed by Verizon and the Technology Student Association encourages STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) learning, and challenges students to design mobile applications that address a need or problem in their schools or communities.

The Shenandoah students developed a concept for the “My School Bus Tracker” application.  With Miami’s especially unpredictable weather and traffic, the app will help students and/or parents use their wireless phones track the location of their specific school bus and provide an accurate estimated time of arrival to the bus stop in the mornings and afternoons.

iTECH Miami Springs students developed “Quick Scholar.”  The app helps students, parents, and advisers create a personalized student profile to quickly sift through scholarships on the Web.  The app then identifies the best scholarships and grants that match that student’s unique metadata.

“Our students here in Miami have come up with some great ideas for wireless technology,” said Mariano Legaz, Florida region president for Verizon Wireless.  “We’re proud of them, along with their families, teachers, schools and everybody who has supported their studies along the way.”

Teacher Teresita Herrera led the Shenandoah team.  “It’s enlightening for students to realize that they can think of an everyday problem and use something as simple as an app to solve it,” she said.  “Technology is a part of the daily lives of teens, and this challenge has helped them learned how to apply STEM learning to create solutions for society’s problems.”

The Shenandoah and iTECH teams now advance to the “Best In Region” stage, in which their apps will compete with those from schools throughout the South. Each “Best In Region” team will earn a $5,000 cash grant for its school to support STEM learning.

Those winners move on to the contest’s final phase in which eight “Best In Nation” winners will earn an additional $15,000 cash grant.  Each winning team member also will receive a wireless tablet from Samsung.  In addition, MIT App Inventor Master Trainers from the Center for Mobile Learning at the MIT Media Lab will train the top teams on coding and app development.  Students also will be invited to present their app ideas in person at the National TSA Conference in Dallas, courtesy of Verizon.

Verizon and MIT also will help the winning students code their app concepts, making them ready for sharing and distribution. Apps developed during the first two years of the competition have been downloaded more than 26,000 times from the Google Play store.

“This contest has exposed students to new skillsets such as learning to collaborate, negotiate and best of all problem solving,” said Justina Nixon-Saintil, director of education programs for the Verizon Foundation. “We can’t wait to see which of these creative concepts will become actual working mobile apps that can help make a difference in local communities.”

Posted Jan. 7, 2014 -- information submitted by Verizon