The App Challenge is a nationwide contest for middle- and high-school-aged students that challenges them to develop concepts for mobile apps that solve a problem in their community. It’s a unique, hands-on learning program that teaches collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, and entrepreneurship, as well as STEM skills and coding. Its aim is to equip students with skills needed to succeed in the jobs of the future, delivering to students the promise of a brighter future.
REGISTRATION OPENS August 4, 2015
SUBMISSION DEADLINE November 24, 2015
Best in State winners will be named January 6, 2016
Best in Region winners will be named January 13, 2016
Best in Nation winners will be named February 2, 2016
This year, non-profit out-of-school groups can enter along with schools!
Youth in grades 6 through 12, in teams of 5 to 7 members plus an adult advisor can enter. You can register with your school (public, private or parochial) or any non-profit group or club that is tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. You must be located in the U.S. (50 states plus the District of Columbia). Non-profit team advisers need to be employees of the affiliated non-profit. The details about who can participate are located here.
First, teams need an adult adviser. This is someone at least 18 years old, who will be responsible for leading the team through the registration process and will commit to mentoring the team throughout the challenge. Team advisers need to complete the registration, authorization and release forms here and then your team is ready to accept the Challenge. Advisers can register as many teams of 5 -7 members as they want.
No. Teams do not have to build an app to enter the Challenge. The Challenge is about the concept only. The concept submission will be evaluated on how well it is researched and presented to the panel of judges. Teams that win at the national level will learn coding from MIT experts who will travel to your location to give in-person training, as well as additional virtual training to get your app ready to launch in the Play store.
Here’s what you’ll do:
- Gather your team
- Look around for problems in your school or community and come up with a few ideas on what you want your app to tackle
- Research what’s available in the marketplace
- Decide as a group on how your team can improve on what exists or create an entirely new solution
- Nail down your solution and its features
- Assign tasks to the team members
- Create your concept submission
Everyone is a winner! Just by entering, young people will gain:
- Experience working on a real world STEM project
- Teamwork and collaboration skills by working in teams of 5 to 7 members
- Critical thinking, creative problem solving, and entrepreneurship skills
- Character development including empathy and grit
- Skills addressed by key standards including Common Core
- Best in State winning teams will receive a $5,000 grant for their school or non-profit sponsored program and mobile tablets for every team member, and the opportunity to compete for the title of Best in Region and Best in Nation. In addition, all Best in State winners will be eligible to be named the People’s Choice winner. The team that receives the most votes via a crowd voting mechanism on the App Challenge website (or other social media platform TBD) will be selected as the People's Choice Award Winner and will receive all the benefits of the Best in Nation winners.
- Best in Nation teams will receive an additional $15,000 grant for their school or out-of-school program, and in-person coding training from MIT experts, plus an all-expenses-paid trip for each team member and a parent/guardian next summer.
Read the details about the awards here.
There is broad consensus that for students to succeed in the jobs of tomorrow, they will need skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, and creative problem solving and more. The App Challenge provides a hands-on project that:
BUILDS TEAMWORK: Teams of 5-7 students work together to identify a problem, assign roles and responsibilities within the team and hold each other accountable for their assignments. They present their solution as a team.
TEACHES CRITICAL THINKING: Students use research and analysis skills, as well as STEM disciplines in identifying problems and devising their solutions.
BUILDS CHARACTER: By searching for problems that need solutions, students exercise empathy.
A concept submission includes a 3-minute video and essay responses.
- Video: Make a 3-minute video and upload it to YouTube or Vimeo. Show the judges your personality and uniqueness. Use the hashtag #VZAppChallenge.
- Essay: Answer each of four essay questions. Be sure to show how the problem you picked is uniquely meaningful to your team and how your solution is innovative.
The judges are looking for:
- Original ideas
- Comprehensive research
- Clear explanations
- Creative presentations
Your idea should address a problem or need that has affected your team personally, or that your team is in a unique position to solve.
For example, a 2014 Best in Nation winning team developed the Hello Navi app to help their blind classmate navigate around the school. A 2015 Best in Nation winning team developed Safe & Sound to help their friends and family members who struggle with stress, anxiety and depression. Another team developed a concept called Remember Me, inspired by a team member’s aunt who suffers from Alzheimer’s, which would help memory impaired people recognize their loved ones.
These teams’ concept submissions were successful because they understood their problem deeply through first-hand experience. This intimate knowledge of the problem also helped them do a better job with research and explain their solutions more clearly and completely.
Your essay responses should be thorough, well written and grammatically correct. For the video, use the resources provided to develop a visual presentation that effectively presents your app concept idea.
Make sure your concept provides an innovative approach. Stay away from app concepts that already exist, or that have already been recognized as App Challenge winners such as:
- Homework/study schedulers
- Calorie counters/exercise logs
- Finding volunteer opportunities
- Weather trackers
- Navigation/traffic apps
Read and carefully consider the specific standards the judges will use here.
The Technology Student Association reviews all the concept submissions to ensure they are complete. Incomplete submissions are disqualified. Then all the complete submissions are evaluated according to the judging standards to identify one winner from grades six through eight and another winner from grades nine through 12 from each state and the District of Columbia. These up to 102 teams’ submissions are then narrowed to three in each grade range for each of four regions: Northeast, Midwest, South and West. These 24 Best in Region teams present their concepts live via webinar to the panel of judges. The judges then select one team in each grade range (6-8 and 9-12) from each region as Best in Nation winners. In addition, all Best in State winners will be eligible to be named the People’s Choice winner. The team that receives the most votes via a crowd voting mechanism on the App Challenge website (or other social media platform TBD) will be selected as the People's Choice Award Winner and will receive all the benefits of the Best in Nation winners.
Yes, Absolutely! If your school entered teams in the past, we encourage you to do it again! If your team won Best in State or Best in Region, by all means, try again this year for Best in Nation. If your team won Best in Nation, though, you’re not eligible to win again. But we hope you’ll use your expertise to mentor another group in your school or community.
There’s a lot that happens after the winners are chosen. All the Best in State teams will receive a $5,000 grant for their schools or out-of-school programs, plus tablets for each team member. They’ll also go on to compete for a place among the twenty-four Best in Region winners and eight Best in Nation teams, plus one People’s Choice award winner to be chosen through crowd voting.
After the Best in Nation teams are announced, coding experts from MIT will visit the winners’ schools or club locations to train them to use MIT App Inventor2 to build their apps. The teams will work in person and virtually with MIT experts to get their apps working by June 1. Then the Best in Nation winning teams will travel (all expenses paid for each team member and one parent/guardian) to the 2016 National Technology Student Association Conference in Nashville, TN to demo their apps in person.
And, some great and surprising things can happen, too. Like these:
A winning team from 2013, the Quest Math team from the Bronx Academy of Promise, was featured in a Verizon commercial.
A winning team from 2014 was featured in a Verizon online campaign and documentary.
Visit the Inspiration section of the 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 of the apps. The apps can be made available for free or students can charge a fee for their app, retaining the profit themselves. Or, like team Hello Navi, they can sell their app to an investor.
No. The tablets are equipped with Wi-Fi capabilities and are capable of running on Verizon Wireless 4G LTE.