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App Challenge winners to work with MIT to bring ‘CaringHands’ to market

HIGHLANDS RANCH – Five Rock Canyon High School students had their day in the spotlight Friday when Verizon Wireless executives came to the school to present them with the Verizon Innovative App Challenge Award. The group from Rock Canyon is one of ten to be selected nationwide for the honor.
“This day has been pretty exciting,” said Adriana Maldonado. “We never expected to win. Once we found out we won, we never expected to have all the media coverage.”
Several television stations, including Fox 31 were on hand at the school for the award presentation and then the students were invited to appear live on Four O’Clock @ 9NEWS. 
Each student, listed below, received a certificate and a Samsung Galaxy tablet. 
• Adriana Maldonado
• Rohan Balan
• Jordan Peters
• Shivani Chauhan
• Deanne Apke
Verizon Wireless Regional President Chris Lewter then presented Rock Canyon Principal Andy Abner, the team’s advisor Christy Street, and Douglas County School District Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Dan McMinimee with a check for $10,000 from the Verizon Foundation to further science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning at the school.
The Verizon Innovative App Challenge competition was created by the Verizon Foundation in partnership with the Technology Student Association to help boost student engagement and interest in STEM-related subjects.  
Students from across the country were asked to use their STEM skills to design app concepts that provided real-world solutions for issues in their communities or schools.  Out of more than 470 nationwide entries, the 10 winning teams, including the Rock Canyon students, will now work on bringing their concepts to market, with professional support and training from Verizon and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab. 
“It's mind-blowing,” said Maldonado. “The students at MIT are idols at Rock Canyon, particularly in the technology department. The fact that we are going to be working with them to make an app that we designed.... there are no words for it. It's amazing.”
The student’s CaringHands app increases awareness of local and global problems and allows the mobile user to donate directly to charities supporting solutions to these issues. It was originally inspired by Rock Canyon’s Wish Week—an amazing, student-led effort to raise money for Make-A-Wish kids. 
“It's basically the most fun week in the entire year because students get involved in the community. It's not because they have to. It's really because they want to,” Madonado said.
This year, the school raised $60,587.80 for Make-A-Wish, enough to send eight kids on the dream trips.
Eventually, however, they decided to widen the app’s scope.
“As we were sitting there thinking about it, Jordan came up with the idea. [He said,] 'why don't we make this applicable to all charities all over the world,'” Maldonado said.
“That is the most exciting part is that it is giving back to the community, not just technology for technology sake,” said Lewter during the event. “It's actually benefiting those that need the help the most.”
By chance, Lewter lives within the District and says he’s proud of the critical thinking, creativity and collaboration these students have demonstrated. 
“As a parent in this school system, I can't be more excited about what we were able to do here. Being able to see the kind of innovation that is coming out of our high schools... it's critically important that these students will be World Class students coming out of the Colorado area,” Lewter said.
“It's so fun and it's so rewarding, especially when high school students get to compete and actually do something with the knowledge they're gaining in classes. It's amazing,” Maldonado added.
Street says authentic experiences, like this app competition, really allow students to test their 21st Century Skills.
“My real goal is for them to apply their learning. I think that is the best experience we can give them,” Street said.
The Rock Canyon team is expected to work with MIT and Verizon in the next couple months, with the goal of offering the app in the Apple iTunes and Google Play stores later this summer.
October 14, 2013 | By Anonymous | Category:

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