Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

App Contest Challenges West Milford Students

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

App Contest Challenges West Milford Students

Article excerpt

WEST MILFORD -- A mobile app giving Highlands hikers the latest localized weather forecast and a reference book to the flora and fauna they see.

Or, for the less physically inclined, an app letting the user custom-make a "fighting robot" to duke it out with another emerging from the wireless ether.

Groups of local high schoolers hope those ideas are enough to launch them into a competition for $10,000 in cash grants. But more important, say their instructors, is how the grant challenge is using the potential of mobile apps to unlock the students' imaginations and capabilities.

As one of many initiatives to increase student exposure to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, West Milford High School allowed two teams to develop mobile phone app concepts to solve real-world problems this winter. Those ideas were pitched to the Verizon Foundation in January as part of the Innovative App Challenge, which could result in the students receiving support and training to develop their apps for market and procuring some grant money for their school, to boot.

"We are hopeful that student-led initiatives such as these will enhance interest in STEM study and promote student achievement in mathematics, science and technology, areas of skill that are critical to success in the 21st-century workplace," high school Principal Paul Gorski said.

The possibility of winning $10,000 in cash grants is seen as a bonus. Gorski and others say the true prize was the forum's ability to allow students to think critically and act creatively in conceptualizing an app to address existing school and community needs.

Those needs: entertaining and educational stimulation.

Noting the community's dearth of social facilities -- there's not even a local movie theater any longer -- amid its forests and trails, students pitched the Nature Network app to give students something to do after school. The interactive guide to West Milford's trail network would recommend hikes based on desired length, duration and elevation change as well as provide maps, tips, historical notes and user ratings. Taking in-app photos of flora and fauna would provide information on local species and possibly bring up a bear-deterring noise player. …

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