Students create digital tools to solve problems

 
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It’s a historic week for the UK - new meets old with the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta coinciding with the start of London Tech Week.


But here at Apps for Good we are focused on the future and the development of tech talent in the UK. The Apps for Good Awards are taking place at the Barbican this Thursday, 18th June, and will be a great display of the ingenuity and creativity of the next generation of problem-solvers and digital makers.


With the help of our fantastic network of over 1000 Experts and sessions led by our wonderful corporate partners, we have managed to shortlist down the entries from over 700 student teams to just 18 finalists who will be joining us in London from schools all over the UK. The teams will spend Thursday morning at digital enterprises across the capital, finding out about what it’s like to work in tech and practising their pitches.

Later in the day they will head to the Barbican to compete in one of six thematic categories. The teams will be hoping to impress our fearsome panels of industry Dragons to win the chance to work with professional developers and get their apps released onto the market.


The range of ideas among our finalists just goes to show the wealth of talent and inventiveness which the Apps for Good course can unlock. Ideas range from an app for avid treasure hunters and one to help budding gardeners to support apps for young carers and ones that make it easier to donate effectively to charity. Check out all the finalist ideas – here!


As well as the 6 thematic categories, you can have your say on which app should make it to market. The People’s Choice Award will be decided by an online vote which is now open. It will close just before the awards ceremony on Thursday evening. Last year we received over 14,000 votes and are hoping to do even better this year. Cast your vote – here!

And we’d love it if you could spread the word about Apps for Good and the People’s Choice Award on social media using #AppsforGood!

Safe Nav and CryptoConnex enjoying a workshop
Safe Nav and CryptoConnex enjoying a workshop

It’s the first day of spring and, here at Apps for Good, we’re not peering through the clouds to the non-event solar eclipse but looking ahead to the Apps for Good Awards taking place at the Barbican on Thursday, 18th June 2015.

Whilst we’re beavering away on the finer details of the event, our students are busy putting the finishing touches to their pioneering app ideas. Submissions are now open to our cohort of over 25,000 students from all over the UK and they will be busy completing feasibility studies, developing marketing strategies, and hammering out business plans.

After submissions close on 24th April, we will start the hard work of shortlisting down the entries (last year we received nearly 600!) to just 18 finalist teams. Those teams will be invited down to London to visit local tech enterprises around Tech City UK and then pitch their problem-solving app ideas to our fearsome panels of industry Dragons. The 7 best teams will win the opportunity to work with professional agencies to develop their prototypes into fully-fledged apps for release onto the open market in early 2016.

In other news, Apps for Good is very excited to be going international! This year we are running a number of pilot projects in Europe, including Spain, Portugal, Poland, Latvia, and Romania. We are working with 3 regional governments in Spain to deliver our course in around 70 schools and working with over 20 schools in Portugal. We will be following the usual Apps for Good protocol of iterative development - assessing our impact, looking at what works, what doesn’t, and how we can innovate to improve. We are very excited about all the lessons to be learnt from moving the course into an international context!

Apps for Good is proud to be a partner of BBC’s Make It Digital – a major UK-wide initiative to inspire a new generation to get creative with digital technology. Launched on 12 March 2015, a season of Make it Digital TV, radio and online content seeks to place a spotlight on digital skills like never before through an ambitious range of new programmes, partnerships and projects. Find out more about the partnership on the Apps for Good Blog.

The Apps for Good Fellows’ Community is up and running. It is open to any student who has taken the course and is a great way for students to learn further skills and access opportunities to gain experience in the tech world. Leanne recently visited our offices when she was down in London to do some work experience at one of our incredible Strategic Partners, Thomson Reuters. Leanne, a student currently taking the Apps for Good course at one of our super-engaged Ninja Schools, Wick High School, is already taking advantage of the type of opportunities available to Fellows. You can find out more about the Fellows Programme here.

To finish, the App Launch was a great success! All the winning apps are now available - you can download them here!

We look forward to receiving all this year's app entry submissions by April 24th. Bring on the shortlisting!

Leanne visits the Apps for Good team in London
Leanne visits the Apps for Good team in London
I
I'm Okay get ready to present their app
Chore Attack
Chore Attack's Caitlyn demonstrates their app

Links:

The 7 student teams that won the Apps for Good Awards in June 2014 are gearing up for the public launch of their apps. Through the Apps for Good course framework, the students were encouraged to tackle problems in their everyday lives. The sheer range of ideas demonstrates the creative potential in schools in the UK which is not being fully engaged by traditional pedagogy. As well as testing their creative potential, the Apps for Good course has helped to improve both the students’ technical coding skills and other soft skills, such as teamwork, confidence and communication.

At the Awards, the finalists got to visit local enterprises in and around Tech City to take part in Accelerator sessions, including advice on how to pitch ideas which came in handy when the teams had to present to our Expert dragons. The App Launch, taking place on 5th February 2015, will be a fantastic celebration of all this hard work, not just by the students but also our educators, corporate partners, professional app developers and team.

Here’s a quick profile of the seven winning teams and their apps:

ShoreCast - The team from Budehaven Community School won the Thomson Reuters sponsored category, My Planet: ideas for a greener and healthier world. The four boys – Tom, Jay, Ben and Archie – have created an app that allows users to find the best surf spots nearby, access clear surf data, rate different beaches and upload reports on conditions.

I’m Okay - The team from Stratford Girls’ Grammar School won Thomson Reuters sponsored category, Information: big ideas for using data and information. The four girls – Josie, Emily, Katie and Alexandra – have designed an app that is aimed at young people coming to terms with their sexuality and gender. It offers a means of sharing experiences through a collection of real-life short stories. Users are able to upload their own stories, find key definitions and locate the details of the best support services through the app.

Pocket Money Pig - The team from The Wroxham School won the Barclaycard sponsored category, Saving, Spending & Giving: making the most out of your money. The three boys – Christopher, George and Ross – have created an app that is aimed at young people, aged 5-15, and their parents, to help reduce family quibbles over pocket money. It offers a simple way for parents and children to keep track of what’s been earned, lent and spent. A parent can keep track of several children through one account with each entry needing approval from both child and parent, making sure everyone is on the same page.

Safe Nav - The team from Shireland Collegiate Academy won the TalkTalk sponsored category, Connected Communities: using technology to connect people and ideas. The four boys – Joshua, Rikardo, Ijahmar and Callum – have made an app for young people to help them navigate the streets safely. The app uses UK police data to provide a heat map of crime in the user’s area and will vibrate to alert them if they are heading into a crime “hotspot”.

CryptoConnex - The team from Hymers College won the Samsung sponsored category, Learning: inspirational learning through technology. The team – Harriet, Paula, Holly and Frederick – have been completing the final stages of the product development process. The app is a teasingly addictive game based on the art of code breaking. Combining tricky game-play and challenging puzzles it’s an innovative way to learn a secret language, the pigpen cipher.

Chore Attack - The team from Wick High School won the SAP sponsored category, Productivity: running better to get the most out of work and play. The girls – Katie, Caitlyn and Meghan – have designed an app, which makes dividing chores among the household fun and rewarding. The app allows families to keep track of who has done their assigned chores. Chore finishers can earn points to climb the leader board and work towards rewards.

PartySpot - The team from Sutton Grammar School won the Tech London Advocates sponsored category, The People’s Choice Award. The winning idea was chosen via public vote in the run-up to the Apps for Good Awards. The boys – Tyler, Dylan, Oliver and Jashvanth – have been completing the final stages of the product development process. The app helps users find the perfect place for their children’s party. It allows users to find party spots near them, read reviews and rate venues.

From assembling mood boards for thematic designs to signing off on user features, the teams have been in full control of the production process. The teams have also had to devise their own branding, marketing and business strategies, which has been a fantastic learning experience for all involved.

The App Launch will also see the official announcement of the Apps for Good Fellows programme. The new initiative will create an official channel for students to keep in touch with Apps for Good, after they have been through the course. The community of Fellows will be able to continue building their digital skills, seek advice on careers in the tech industry and access work placement opportunities (see previous report). We are very excited about the potential impact of the Fellows programme on the future of Apps for Good students.

The Shore Cast Team
The Shore Cast Team
Stephen Fry Supported The I
Stephen Fry Supported The I'm Okay App On Twitter
Apps for Good Fellow Amarah
Apps for Good Fellow Amarah

The 2014/15 school year is off to an excellent start, with an estimated 25,000 students from 470 education partners poised to deliver the Apps for Good programme (see map of where we are here), 700-1000 teachers slated to access our newly launched online continuous professional development platform and our pilot Fellows community already enjoying participation from 100 former students (Fellows) and several Apps for Good teachers.

Our Fellows Community is a development we’re particularly excited about, as it offers a means of bridging the gap that many of our former students experience, between participation in the Apps for Good programme, and entry into higher education or employment. While the Apps for Good programme gets students excited about solving problems using technology, and building their STEAMED skills, once they finish the course, they are left without an outlet or sense of how to develop further. The Fellows programme offers a means of sustaining contact with students once they finish the course, and continuing to nurture their skills development.

We came to identify the need for a Fellows community via requests from our former students and current teachers for more materials to engage with, as well as for internship and volunteering opportunities. Because of this demand, we opted to pilot a small project, using our Innovation Cycle to manage the process (see our Nominet Trust blog on innovation here) and coming up with a framework for the project (LADDR).

We are helping students get access to the following opportunities:

Learn: Continue to develop more skills (incl. coding/programming)

Achieve: Enter competitions and challenges

Discover: Get advice and guidance from Apps for Good Expert volunteers

Do: Gain work experience (on site and virtually)

Return: Become an Apps for Good Ambassador (speak at events, mentor students etc.)

Another factor fuelling our interest in creating a Fellows programme is our mission to, “empower students from all backgrounds to seize the opportunities of our digital age and create solutions to the problems they care about, using technology.” While a mere 17% of tech industry professionals are female, and the Guardian’s most recent report on A-Level results found that 9/10 students taking the computing exam were male, an average of 50% of Apps for Good students are female, and 33% from a visible ethnic minority, as well as 51% of our schools above the national average of Free School Meals. This leaves us well placed to support the talent of traditionally underrepresented groups in tech, and highlights the importance of having a network in place to do so, after our students finish the Apps for Good course. While still in early pilot stage, our fledgling Fellows programme has already placed several students in work experiences or internships, including Amarah, pictured with her Buzzer Buddiez partner Tamanna.

To that end, we were delighted to help 14 year old Apps for Good Fellow and former Coding Ninja, Alex Gower gain access to the global headquarters of Google, Facebook and Twitter, in Silicon Valley, California. Alex wanted to take a close up look at life in the tech sector, and judging by his blog visiting these three giants really captured his attention and built his interest.

In his words:

The coolest thing I saw at Facebook was the vending machine that dispensed technological devices. At Twitter, I liked the roof garden a lot because it had such good views of the city and had towers looming above it from all sides. The coolest things I saw at Google were the conference bikes that sat up to 7 people who each pedalled whilst having a conversation.

Alex’s visit fuelled his desire to become a computer engineer, because, in his words, he, “like[s] to understand how things work and this job would be at the heart of making a project.” Alex also noted the, appeal of ‘flexi working hours with tech companies’ as each of the three companies he worked for were happy for their teams to enjoy flexible working hours and remote locations, as long as communication was strong. His site visits helped him get a clear idea of what was required to achieve his goal, including: “[making] technical projects in my spare time, and by doing this, learn[ing] techniques that could become useful in a real-life scenario. Also, by taking part in open-source projects, I could learn skills such as coding in a team and reading other people’s code that could also help in a computing job.”

We were delighted to hear that Alex is still dreaming of becoming a full time digital maker, and that the trip to California was inspiring and informative. We’re looking forward to helping more of our Fellows find their way to exciting new learning opportunities. For more stories of the adventures of Apps for Good Fellows, please visit: http://blog.appsforgood.org/

To provide internships, work experiences and other opportunities to our Fellows please contact us at: fellows@appsforgood.org

Apps for Good Fellow Alex, at Facebook
Apps for Good Fellow Alex, at Facebook
Alex with his colourful Google bike
Alex with his colourful Google bike

Links:

Pitching the idea: Occasion Location on site
Pitching the idea: Occasion Location on site

The 2014 Apps for Good Awards were an exciting whirl of activity, featuring 18 finalist student ideas for apps to solve issues in the environment, communities, learning, information, productivity and finances, selected from among those submitted by 17,000 Apps for Good students.

In addition to the six issue area categories, the Apps for Good Awards include a People’s Choice Award, bestowed on the most popular app idea. The journey Apps for Good has taken as an organisation is neatly mirrored in the journey of the People's Choice Award category, with the astounding number of votes cast at this year’s awards reflecting the growth of the organisation and of public awareness of the Apps for Good programme and mission.

At the first Apps for Good awards in 2012, the event was quite small and voting for the People’s Choice award was confined to the event itself, with paper ballots cast on site and frantically counted by hand backstage, by one of the 8 Apps for Good staff the organisation than employed. The following year, voting was slightly more sophisticated, with a digital platform used to cast votes, and voting confined to the area where students were presenting their ideas. As the votes came in, the monitor realised that people off-site were casting ballots, and with that realisation came the awareness that interest in the Apps for Good finalists had grown beyond the confines of a single building.

This year the People’s Choice Award voting opened weeks in advance of the Awards, with votes coming from far and wide, from Caithness, Scotland to Budehaven, Cornwall to North Carolina, U.S.A., reflecting the global reach of Apps for Good and the diverse origins of student participants. Over 14,000 votes were cast this year, resulting in Occasion Location from Sutton Grammar School for Boys, in Surrey winning the award. Occasion Location and the other winning teams went on to attend Skills Matter workshops on turning an idea into a great product, and will continue to receive mentorship and advice from the amazing Apps for Good expert team, as they work with development agencies over the next 6 months to truly bring their ideas to life, and launch them on the marketplace.

Apps for Good Finalists
Apps for Good Finalists
Learning in action at Apps for Good Awards
Learning in action at Apps for Good Awards
People
People's Choice Winners, Occasion Location

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Organization

Project Leader

Luisa Gockel

London, London United Kingdom

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