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Rock Canyon wins Best in State, Region in Verizon App Challenge

DCSD schools clinch title for 4th year in a row

HIGHLANDS RANCH – A team from Rock Canyon High School have some big footsteps to follow. This week they learned that they have clinched Best in State and Best in Region during the Verizon App Challenge. Now the students hope to follow the lead of the school’s 2013 team, which went on to become national champs and released their app to the market.

It is also the fourth year in a row that a Douglas County School District (DCSD) school has clinched the Best in State title.

DCSD Best in State Honorees
2016 Rock Canyon
2015 Cimarron Middle School
2014 Ranch View Middle School
2013 Rock Canyon – National Champions

Every year two schools are chosen from each state for the Verizon App Challenge Best in State honor. CLICK HERE for a full list of the 2016 honorees.

Rock Canyon and the other Colorado school selected this year, Altona Middle School in Longmont, will both receive a $5,000 grant. The Jaguars will receive their check during an assembly in front of the student body.

Like many inventors, the Rock Canyon team was inspired by their experiences and frustrations. Their app, which is titled “School In One” aims to bring together information from a number of other apps into one, easier to use resource.

“We figured, if you don’t like it, change it.”
Lisa Gilbert, Rock Canyon junior

“We had elements of each program that we are required to use that we didn’t like. In fact, there are some programs that we’re supposed to be required to use that we ignore altogether because we hate them so much,” said Rock Canyon junior Tina Gilbert. “We figured, if you don’t like it, change it.”

In addition to providing students with a day planner or place to check grades, it integrates many of the most popular features from Infinite Campus, Schoology and other software—in one app.

“It’s very versatile,” Gilbert said.

“A lot of our classmates were very interested in this sort of product, because it is something that we have been missing,” explained Rock Canyon junior Ryan Vandersmith.

“We wanted to make something that actually could be used by students and that students would frankly enjoy using and it wouldn’t be a headache,” Gilbert added.

While teams are only required to submit concepts and designs for apps during this stage of the competition, the Rock Canyon team has already designed a prototype.

“We do have a running prototype right now,” explained Rock Canyon junior Jon Meade. “One of the cool things if we win nationals is that MIT will send some of their developers down to Rock Canyon to develop the product further.”

In 2013, Rock Canyon was one of 10 teams who won the honor of having an MIT professor travel to their school to help finish the app development. Their app, CaringHands was released on both the Apple iTunes and Google Play stores.

READ MORE: Rock Canyon High School wins national mobile app design competition

“It’s amazing to me how great these students have done. Everything they’ve done has been on their own,” said Rock Canyon Teacher Kyler Barker. “This is my first year at Rock Canyon and I have had the pleasure of being able to have the students pick something that they’re passionate about and not have any resistance from the main office or anyone in the District saying, ‘no you can’t do that.’”

He believes that projects like this and the ability students have in DCSD schools, including Rock Canyon, to work directly with actual scientists from aroud the country will give them an advantage when they compete for the college or career of their choice one day.

“There is nothing better. Most of the time nowadays companies will ask what your experience is. These students are so passionate and have designed their own app—that says a lot,” Barker said. “In classes we have them working with scientists and engineers—people in the actual field. They fact that they can say, I do know so-and-so from whatever company, really does allow them to build those connections now in high school for when they get into that farther part in their lives.”

Rock Canyon's Team needs your help
The Rock Canyon app is now in consideration for two possible national awards, including the Fan Favorite. Currently it is in third place amongst the 100 Best of State schools.

Supporting the project can be easily done by texting 22333 with the message Schoolinone1[DS1]  (one vote per phone). Voting for the Fan Favorite category ends January 31.

The students have been working hard to spread the word to students, teachers, and parents and outside of the school.

“We went to the Douglas County Libraries and asked them if they could promote our app,” said Rock Canyon freshman Owen Vandersmith.

“People are pretty eager for this to become a reality,” added his brother Ryan Vandersmith. “People really want to see something like this and they’re definitely willing to vote for it.”

If the students win the national competition, Rock Canyon will receive a $15,000 grant, which will be divided amongst the Technology Student Association, CyberPatriot and other STEM-related classes and clubs.

Just like many entrepreneurs, the students and their advisor believe the possibilities for Rock Canyon’s app are endless.

“If we get this up and running for high school students, we believe that we could branch out into middle schools and possible elementary schools and colleges, because of how versatile the app is. It is so customizable that really anything is possible,” Gilbert said.

“It will really help not only the students in the school, but also the parents keep track of how their students are doing in a single location instead of all the different ones,” Barker said.

Learn more about the Verizon App Challenge at


January 13, 2016 | By rmbarber | Category: High School Education, Schools

District News

graduates standing in line outside, smiling

DOUGLAS COUNTY – Graduation rates in the Douglas County School District (DCSD) continue to climb. Data released today by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) shows the on-time, four-year graduation rate is now 90.4 percent.

DCSD students also made an impressive showing at graduation. The class of 2017 earned more than $82 million in scholarships.

DCSD has one of the highest graduation rates in the Denver metro area. According to CDE, DCSD graduation rates have risen steadily from 81.9 percent in 2009 to 90.4 percent in 2017.

Five female students standing on stage smiling and laughing at the awards ceremony

The top two-percent of female athletes in Douglas County School District (DCSD) were honored at the annual Girls and Women in Sports Luncheon last week at Chaparral High School. This year represented the 30th national celebration of Girls and Women in Sports Day, created to encourage and promote the participation of girls in athletics. The girls who were honored were selected by their school’s coaches, athletic directors and principals for their outstanding achievements.

Superintendent Search text based logo

Working through the recent winter break, the Douglas County School District Board of Education has kicked off its search for DCSD’s next permanent superintendent. Following a thorough vetting of potential search firms, Ray & Associates (no relation to Board Director David Ray) has been hired to conduct the national search. The cost of the firm, excluding travel expenses, is $40,000. The money will come from the school board's budget, which is used for costs such as legal expenses and conferences.