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SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Elizabeth White, Carmen Gonzalez, PagerDuty Blog, Liz McMillan, XebiaLabs Blog

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Westford Academy Aces Verizon Innovative App Challenge

Westford Academy has made the grade, as a team of its students has been named one of eight winners of the second Verizon Innovative App Challenge. The team’s app concept, “Tactillium,” delivers science education through a chemistry simulator without the expense of chemistry equipment and materials. The app will offer 3D simulations of the equipment, chemicals and reactions that occur in chemistry labs, providing students with chemistry experiences that may not otherwise be available.

Created by the Verizon Foundation in partnership with the Technology Student Association, the Innovative App Challenge charged teams of middle- and high-school students across the country with developing concepts for mobile applications that could provide solutions to real problems in their schools or communities. The competition is designed to help boost student engagement and interest in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

Westford Academy is one of four middle schools and four high schools named Best in Nation. The Best in Nation winners were selected from a pool of approximately 1,300 teams across the country that entered the competition. They rose through three levels of competition to be named Best in State, Best in Region and ultimately, Best in Nation.

“Verizon applauds the winning teams – and, indeed, all the students who entered the App Challenge – for their effort,” said Christine Berberich, New England President for Verizon Wireless. “The Challenge’s real prize for us is seeing how students use technology as a tool in solving some real problems in their communities. We’re looking forward to seeing the winners’ fully developed apps.”

Students from Westford Academy will now focus on developing their app concept into an actual app. To build their app, they will learn to code and how to use MIT App Inventor, with hands-on support and training from Verizon employees and members of the MIT App Inventor Training Corps. Verizon will then help the teams share and distribute their finished apps via a platform such as the Google Play store.

Each Best in Nation winning team has earned its school a $15,000 Verizon Foundation grant, in addition to a $5,000 grant for achieving Best in Region. Westford Academy will use the grants to help build the team’s app and advance STEM education. Winning team members will receive new Samsung* Galaxy tablets, courtesy of Samsung Telecommunications America.

Members of the eight winning teams will be invited to present their apps in person – on their new tablets – at the 2014 National TSA Conference in Washington, D.C., courtesy of Verizon, June 27th through July 1st.

The students, working in teams of five to seven, were guided by faculty advisers and received tutorials from Verizon’s Innovation Center engineers, who created instructional videos on app design and development. Best in Region and Best in State winning teams also had access to an online course called “Teaching App Creation with MIT App Inventor,” developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab’s Center for Mobile Learning.

The winning app designs were selected by a panel of STEM and industry experts from the Verizon Innovation Center, MIT Media Lab, Samsung Mobile, the New York Hall of Science, the National Academy Foundation, National Geographic, the International Reading Association, National Center for Family Literacy, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, VGo Communications, Inc., Cisco Systems, and the American Association of the Advancement of Science. Entries were judged based on their clear identification of a need or problem in a school or community, originality, creativity, the viability of the concept, and the applicability of STEM principles and practices.

For more information on the Verizon Innovative App Challenge, and to see the list of the Best in Nation, Best in Region and Best in State winners, visit www.verizonfoundation.org/appchallenge.

The Verizon Foundation is focused on improving teaching and learning, particularly through the use of mobile technologies to support STEM education. Since 2000, the foundation has invested more than $320 million to support education initiatives.

*Samsung and Galaxy Note are registered trademarks of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.

About the Technology Student Association (TSA)

The Technology Student Association is a national organization devoted exclusively to the needs of students engaged in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Open to young people enrolled in or who have completed technology education courses, TSA’s membership includes 200,000 middle and high school students in 2,000 schools spanning 48 states. TSA partners with universities and other organizations to promote a variety of STEM competitions and opportunities for students and teachers. TSA is supported by educators, parents and business leaders who believe in the need or a technologically literate society. From engineers to business managers, our alumni credit TSA with a positive influence in their lives. Visit http://www.tsaweb.org for more information.

About the Verizon Foundation

The Verizon Foundation is focused on accelerating social change by using the company’s innovative technology to help solve pressing problems in education, healthcare and energy management. Since 2000, the Verizon Foundation has invested more than half a billion dollars to improve the communities where Verizon employees work and live. Verizon’s employees are generous with their donations and their time, having logged more than 6.8 million hours of service to make a positive difference in their communities. For more information about Verizon’s philanthropic work, visit www.verizonfoundation.org; or for regular updates, visit the Foundation on Facebook (www.facebook.com/verizonfoundation) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/verizongiving).

VERIZON’S ONLINE NEWS CENTER: Verizon news releases, executive speeches and biographies, media contacts and other information are available at Verizon’s online News Center at newscenter.verizon.com. The news releases are available through an RSS feed. To subscribe, visit newscenter.verizon.com/corporate/feeds.

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