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Charlotte students’ mobile applications among nation’s best

Members of the Lenovo Scholars Club at Phillip O’Berry Academy of Technology have worked all year to create and develop their own applications for mobile devices: front row, from left, Thong Nguyen, Ysamuel Nay, Lizbeth Rangel, Thuy Rogle, Lesley Santos, Phon H, Skarleth Maradiaga; back row, from left, Juan Pardo, Boaty Gatling, Jackson Styers, Rafel Nicolas and Lucas Torres.
Members of the Lenovo Scholars Club at Phillip O’Berry Academy of Technology have worked all year to create and develop their own applications for mobile devices: front row, from left, Thong Nguyen, Ysamuel Nay, Lizbeth Rangel, Thuy Rogle, Lesley Santos, Phon H, Skarleth Maradiaga; back row, from left, Juan Pardo, Boaty Gatling, Jackson Styers, Rafel Nicolas and Lucas Torres. COURTESY OF SHARON JONES

Every Monday afternoon after school, 13 students in the IT Academy at Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology meet to develop their own applications for mobile devices.

Teachers Sharon Jones, 34, and Lennard Small, 44, run the club and guide the students through the curriculum, but Jones says the students do most of the work.

Phillip O. Berry is the only school in North Carolina, and one of 10 nationwide, that has received a $10,000 grant to institute the Lenovo Scholar Network. The curriculum was created by the National Academy Foundation in conjunction with computer-maker and technology firm Lenovo.

The National Academy Foundation is a nonprofit that fosters partnerships between business and educational communities in five key areas, one of which is information technology.

The goal, says Lenovo’s Jason Mooneyham, is to provide NAF academies throughout the U.S. with a more robust mobile application development curriculum and delivery program. The curriculum teaches students all aspects of creating their own mobile apps: coding, thinking through the application’s purpose, and determining who would benefit from the app.

The $10,000 grant came in the form of computers and software students used to create the applications.

“It is a very robust curriculum,” said Jones, who requires students to keep journals online documenting their progress. The students work individually or in pairs to come up with an idea and create an application to address a societal problem they identify.

Boaty Gatling and Ysamuel Nay, both 15-year-old ninth-graders, developed an app called Hydroflow to check water quality and determine what is in the water in a particular community.

“Every day that I worked on it, I saw how hard it is to make an app,” Gatling said. “It was really difficult but really rewarding at the same time.”

Fellow ninth-graders Juan Pardo and Skarleth Maradiaga, also both 15, developed an educational app to help users know how things you do affect the environment.

Students presented their applications to a panel of teachers last month, who then chose the two apps the school would submit to Lenovo and NAF for judging.

Lizbeth Rangel and Jackson Styers, both 16, created one of the two apps selected, called Sukario Kids. The program is an on-the-go blood analyzer for children with diabetes that helps parents monitor blood-sugar levels.

Rengel, whose father is diabetic, came up with the idea. “Nothing that I had came close,” Styers said.

The other application the panel selected was DeeringDollars, developed by Thom Nguyen, 17, an 11th-grader at Phillip O’Berry.

“I got the idea from one of my teachers,” Nguyen said. His app distributes classroom rewards through the phone instead of on paper and allows students to use the app to cash them in.

The National Academy Foundation announced the five winners of the Lenovo Scholar Network Mobile App Competition earlier this month; Sukario Kids and DeeringDollars were among them.

The students will join other winning student groups at the July 20 NAF Conference in Anaheim, Calif., where they will present the applications and business plans.

“Their exposure to the app development process has been phenomenal,” said Small. “I see their growth through this whole process.”

Some of the apps created from a 2012 Lenovo Scholar pilot program have successfully launched and are available to the public, a trend all involved in the program are hoping will continue.

The study of science, technology, engineering and math “doesn’t always get the most attention but is critically important in education,” Mooneyham said. “Through the Lenovo Scholar Network, Lenovo and NAF are able to expose high school students in STEM to the technology, resources and real-world learning opportunities needed to help enable them to become the next generation of developers and innovators.”

Katya Lezin is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Katya? Email her at bowserwoof@mindspring.com.

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Public voting is open to select the Lenovo Scholar Network Fan Favorite. Votes can be cast at www.lenovoscholars.com.

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