NEW YORK, Jan. 6, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Ninety teams of middle school and high school students have earned the title Best in State in the third Verizon Innovative App Challenge, a national competition in which students design a mobile application concept that addresses a need or problem in their local schools or communities. The teams were selected from more than 1,099 app concepts submitted by school teams nationwide.
The Verizon Innovative App Challenge was created in partnership with the Technology Student Association in response to a critical need to inspire student interest in science, technology, engineering and math. Student interest and proficiency in STEM has been stagnant in the United States, especially among women and minorities, although 80 percent of all jobs over the next decade will require STEM skills. Currently, 3 million STEM jobs are unfilled in the U.S., and occupations related to STEM are projected to increase to more than 9 million by 2022.
Verizon is committed to improving student engagement and achievement in STEM by infusing technology into the classroom through a variety of initiatives. The Innovative App Challenge focuses on ideating concepts for mobile apps, and encourages students to learn about app development. Because mobile devices and apps play a leading role in the lives of young people today, app development is an effective way to engage them, transforming them from users of technology to creators. Teaching app development empowers students to become builders of technology solutions to everyday problems.
More than 90 percent of the winners from last year's Innovative App Challenge expressed interest in pursuing STEM careers after learning coding and launching their winning app in the Google Play store. Roughly 70 percent reported increased creativity, teamwork and communication skills, and content knowledge.
"Through the Innovative App Challenge, Verizon is cultivating the next generation of innovative and creative thinkers and inspiring them to go into the STEM fields," said Justina Nixon-Saintil, director of education programs for the Verizon Foundation. "The apps from last year's competition exceeded our expectations, and we were thrilled that one of the Innovative App Challenge winners from last year was invited to the annual White House Science Fair to demonstrate its 'Hello Navi' app, built to help a blind classmate better navigate the halls at school.
"This year's Best-in-State app concepts are equally impressive," Nixon-Saintil said. "I'm so proud the Verizon Innovative App Challenge has been the impetus for students across the country to problem-solve, using critical thinking and creativity to develop a concept for an app that could solve an issue in their community."
The Path to Best in Nation
The 90 Best in State teams advance to the next round of the competition. On Jan. 16, Verizon and the TSA will name 24 Best in Region middle school and high school team winners from the West, Midwest, South and Northeast. Each Best in Region team will earn a $5,000 cash grant for its school to further develop or support a program in science, technology, engineering and math.
Dr. Rosanne White, executive director of the TSA, said: "Teachers have told us that the Innovative App Challenge has helped them teach critical thinking, build character and promote teamwork. It lets them provide a real-world experience that ties STEM subjects to creating a benefit to society, in a fun, engaging hands-on project."
On Feb. 3, the Innovative App Challenge competition's final phase will conclude with the selection of eight Best in Nation winners – four middle school and four high school teams – chosen from the Best in Region teams. Best in Nation teams will earn their schools an additional $15,000 cash grant to further develop or support a STEM-related program. Each team member will receive a Samsung tablet, courtesy of Samsung Electronics America. In addition, MIT App Inventor Master Trainers from the Center for Mobile Learning at the MIT Media Lab will give the Best in Nation teams onsite and virtual training on coding and app development, using MIT App Inventor to develop the teams' apps.
Verizon, in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab, will help the students develop their app concepts, making them ready for sharing and distribution. Apps developed during the first two years of the Verizon Innovative App Challenge have been downloaded more than 26,000 times from the Google Play store.
In June, the members of the eight winning teams will be invited to present their apps in person at the National TSA Conference in Dallas, courtesy of Verizon.
To see the list of the Best in State winners, visit http://verizon.com/appchallenge2014.
About the Technology Student Association (TSA)
The Technology Student Association is a national organization devoted exclusively to the needs of students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Open to young people enrolled in or who have completed technology education courses, TSA's membership includes over 190,000 middle and high school students in 2,000 schools spanning 48 states. TSA partners with universities and other organizations to promote a variety of STEM competitions and opportunities for students and teachers. TSA is supported by educators, parents and business leaders who believe in the need or a technologically literate society. From engineers to business managers, our alumni credit TSA with a positive influence in their lives. Visit http://www.tsaweb.org for more information.
About the Verizon Foundation
The Verizon Foundation is focused on accelerating social change by using the company's innovative technology to help solve pressing problems in education, healthcare and energy management. Since 2000, the Verizon Foundation has invested more than half a billion dollars to improve the communities where Verizon employees work and live. Verizon's employees are generous with their donations and their time, having logged more than 6.8 million hours of service to make a positive difference in their communities. For more information about Verizon's philanthropic work, visit www.verizon.com/about/responsibility; or for regular updates, visit Facebook (www.facebook.com/verizonfoundation) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/verizongiving).
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