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Local students win inaugural Congressional App Challenge

by Candice Miller on May 30, 2014

By Kate Opalewski, Staff Writer

Published: Friday, May 30, 2014

 Four local students were named the winners of U.S. Rep. Candice Miller’s inaugural smartphone app challenge.

Miller announced the winners of the first Congressional academic competition on May 28 at the Macomb Academy of Arts and Sciences in Armada, where the winners attend school. Students Davanna White, Krista Wylin, Amanda Fulghum and Brendan Mantay were recognized for their app “Bakground Noise.”

As chairperson of the House Committee, Miller established the challenge to engage students’ creativity and encourage their participation in STEM education fields. Congress has drawn attention to the projected shortage of roughly one million STEM graduates over the next decade, the same period in which an estimated 8.5 million new STEM job opportunities are expected to open up.

The students’ collaboration began in February and lasted a month and a half. The team of four worked on different software components needed to create their app that allows the user to create and manage playlists, as well as tag mixed-media, using a web interface that links back to the application.

As described by teacher Christina Vrzovski, the user logs into the app on their phone or on the website. When they are logged in, the user can upload their music, podcasts and more. Then, the user can organize their music based on mood, weather, genre or type of podcast.

“The significant concept about this app and what makes it different from other apps currently available is that you can continue listening to your music where you left off on one device and pick up that same location in the song on another device,” she said. “This app also allows the user to manage all their playlists in one place.”

The nationwide event garnered involvement from approximately 150 districts with students from across the country who competed by creating and exhibiting their software application, or “app,” for mobile, tablet or computer devices on a platform of their choice. The challenge was open only to high school students who reside in a participating district or who are eligible to attend public high school in that district.

“I want to congratulate the talented students from the Macomb Academy of Arts and Sciences for winning this year’s app challenge,” Miller said in a press release. “Their proven ability to compete within the STEM fields will serve them well in their future endeavors. I also commend their teachers and mentors for their encouragement. STEM research and innovation is a major skill set driving today’s global economy, and it is extremely important that we equip our youth with the skills they need to succeed.”

The judges rated the apps on quality, creativity, implementation and demonstrated excellence of coding and programming skills.

“I am so proud of them.” Vrzovski said. “The technology they learned is found in industry today. These students persevered through a process that is typical of a real world design and development procedure as they created their app, which meets a need in the real world for all ages. As a further step in this process, the students hope to market their app to the general public in the near future.”

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