ROGERS — Catherine Plant had done some coding, but didn’t try her hand at designing a mobile application until she took part in a recent competition for local youth.
Her first try proved rather successful.
The Elmwood Middle School seventh-grader, described by her two teammates as the brains behind their “Quick Cleaning” app, won first place Thursday in a student showcase.
Catherine devised the computer program to make household chores fun for the whole family.
The application assigns tasks while maintaining a reward system for completing those tasks. Judges picked it as the best proposal among pitches from 11 teams of mostly middle school students.
Catherine, speaking after the event, declined to take all of the credit, saying it resulted from work her entire key code class did together last semester. Key code class combines keyboarding and coding. Fellow seventh-graders Carson Wolfe and Beau Williams helped her present it.
“I just worked off the idea and made an app out of it, with lots of help from my teammates,” Catherine said.
Several hundred students from the Rogers and Benton-ville school districts participated in the application design program that started in November. The top teams were invited to the showcase at Rogers School District’s Professional Learning Center.
The teams took turns presenting ideas before a panel of seven judges, including Mayor Greg Hines.
The students aimed to imagine applications addressing problems facing their community. They explained what it would look like, how it would work, why it was needed and how it differed from similar apps. Some groups described how much money they would need to launch their app.
The top three teams received medals.
Passinova, a hall-pass app presented by a team of three from Rogers’ Oakdale Middle School, took third place. Colby Fingerhut, an Oakdale teacher, accompanied the team.
“I would say I just helped them get started, and the creativity was all them,” Fingerhut said.
He was impressed by how they handled themselves in front of the judges.
“We did a couple of dry runs, but they definitely exceeded my expectations for today,” he said.
Dylan Sivilay, 15, and Giselle Garcia, 14, were the only high school students who competed Thursday. The New Technology High School students presented their app called Trend Setter, which they said would help businesses identify trends that could help them make money. Their proposal took second place.
“Maybe I didn’t get first place, but I got the experience from it. So that’s good enough for me,” said Giselle.
Tata Consultancy Services, an information-technology consulting company, sponsored the event as part of its GoIT program, which focuses on computer science and technology education.
GoIT launched in Cincinnati in 2009 and since has affected 26,000 children nationally, said Hillary Mc-Donald, a GoIT specialist with Tata who moderated Thursday’s event.
“Computer science is a skill set that supports all industries and technology is a tool to solve problems, which is what we’re trying to teach students,” McDonald said.
Several adults addressed the students before presentations got underway.
Irina Pelphrey, one of the judges and a senior director of merchandise operations at Walmart, said she grew up in Uzbekistan, where girls weren’t encouraged to pursue careers in science and technology. But she was able to rethink the possibilities for herself when she came to the United States as a young woman.
“So it’s very exciting for me to see everyone engaged, regardless of where they come from or what they look like,” Pelphrey said. “If you have a dream of being in technology or being in business, I’m very glad you get to test your abilities on things like this.”
Anthony Owen, Arkansas’ director of computer science education, spoke about the governor’s initiative to boost computer science education in the state. There are 9,813 students in the state taking a computer-science course this year, nearly 10 times the total of five years ago, he said.
Hines noted the efforts of companies such as Tata show industry is just as concerned about the future of students and the workforce as the public education system is.
“And these companies also recognize that while we in this nation spend a lot of money per student educating them, it’s still not enough,” Hines said. “It takes a little bit more involvement and interaction from the private sector to ensure we compete globally in the marketplace.”
Dave Perozek can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @NWADaveP.
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Tata Consultancy Services’ GoIT program is intended to address the skills gap in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. The program has expanded into 77 cities across North America with the help of nearly 3,800 Tata employee volunteers and has engaged more than 25,000 middle and high school students in the United States and Canada. About 42% of the students reached are girls, who are historically underrepresented in STEM fields.
Source: Staff Report
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Abraham Martinez (from left) Molly Hicks and Madison Hargrave, all students at Elmwood Middle School in Rogers, present an idea for a smartphone application Thursday at the Professional Learning Center in Rogers. Thirteen teams competed to design a mobile app in the goIT event hosted by Tata Consultancy Services. Students presented their creations to a panel of judges including Mayor Greg Hines and state Rep. Jana Della Rosa. The teams were tasked with developing apps that would address issues in their communities. Visit nwaonline.com/200117Daily/ for a daily image gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. Wampler)