The app challenge, part of Verizon Innovative Learning, is a nationwide contest in which middle and high school students are challenged to develop concepts for mobile apps that solve a problem in their community. It’s a unique, hands-on activity that teaches collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, and entrepreneurship, as well as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills and coding. It builds on students’ excitement about technology and aims to equip them with skills they need to succeed in the jobs of the future.
Teams of students affiliated with schools and nonprofit groups/clubs can enter the contest, along with an faculty advisor.
The students must be in grades 6 through 12, and the teams must have five to seven members plus their advisor. Teams can register with their school (public, private, or parochial) or any nonprofit group or club that is tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. They must be located in the United States. Here are more details about who can participate.
The faculty advisor, referenced in the Official Rules and Guidelines, is the person who serves as an advisor to a team from a school or nonprofit group/club. The faculty advisor must be at least 18 years old. He/she must be either an employee or an authorized representative of the school or nonprofit group/club that is sponsoring the team. An authorized representative is a person who is approved by the school or nonprofit group/club to act on its behalf in the Verizon Innovative Learning app challenge. Teams that are named Best in State winners will be required to provide proof of authorization by submitting this completed form to Technology Student Association (TSA), the administrator of the Verizon Innovative Learning app challenge.
Faculty advisors are responsible for completing the registration, authorization, and release forms and for mentoring the team throughout the app challenge. Advisors can register as many teams as they want.
The faculty advisor registers the school or nonprofit group/club. The advisor then creates a separate submission for each team/app concept. One advisor may register multiple teams.
No, students do not register; they are listed on the roster associated with each submission. Only faculty advisors may register a school or nonprofit group/club.
No. Teams do not build an app to enter the app challenge—the contest is about the concept only. Judges evaluate essay/video submissions based on how well the team has researched and presented its concept. After a team wins at the national level, members learn coding from MIT experts who help them get their app ready to launch in an online app marketplace.
To create an app concept:
A concept submission consists of essay responses and a video.
Judges are looking for:
Your idea should address a problem or need that has affected your team or school personally, or that your team is in a unique position to solve.
These teams’ concept submissions were successful because they understood their problem deeply through first-hand experience. Their intimate knowledge of the problem helped them conduct more complete research and explain their solutions more clearly.
Your essay responses should be thorough, well-written, and edited for correct grammar and spelling. To create your video, use the resources for ideas on how to effectively present your app concept.
Make sure your concept provides an innovative approach. Do not create concepts for apps that already exist, or that have been recognized as previous app challenge winners, such as:
A panel of judges, including educators and industry experts assembled by the Technology Student Association (TSA), evaluates the concept submissions according to these judging standards to identify winners at the Best in State, Best in Region, and Best in Nation levels. All Best in State winners are also eligible to participate in the Fan Favorite contest.
Everyone is a winner! Just by participating, young people gain:
State- and national-level winners get these amazing prizes:
All Best in State teams are eligible to compete for the title of Fan Favorite, which is chosen by popular vote. The teams’ video submissions are posted on the app challenge website, and the public is invited to vote for their favorite. The Fan Favorite winning team receives the same prizes as the Best in Nation teams.
There is broad consensus that for students to succeed in the jobs of tomorrow, they will need skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, creative problem solving, and more. The app challenge is a hands-on project that:
If your school or group has entered teams in the past, we encourage you to enter again! If your team won Best in State or Best in Region, by all means, try again this year for Best in Nation.
Schools or nonprofit groups/clubs can enter teams each year. However, if your team won Best in Nation, those team members are not eligible to participate again. But we hope you’ll use your expertise to mentor another group in your school or community.
After the Best in State winners are chosen, they receive their prizes (a $5,000 award for their school or nonprofit group/club, plus tablets for each team member). They go on to compete for Best in Region, and regional winners in turn compete for Best in Nation. All Best in State teams may compete for the Fan Favorite award, which is chosen through crowd voting.
After the Best in Nation teams are announced, coding experts from MIT visit the winners’ schools or nonprofit groups/clubs and train students to use MIT App Inventor to build their apps. The teams work in person and virtually with MIT experts to get their apps working by June 1. Then the Best in Nation winning teams travel (all expenses are paid for each team member and one parent/guardian) to the National TSA Conference in the summer, where they demo their apps in person.
Some great and surprising things can happen to the winning teams, too. For example:
Visit the Past Winners page of the app challenge website to read about these stories and more.
The apps are owned by the students who created them. Verizon does not own the intellectual property.