The Hello Navi mobile application being developed at Resaca Middle School in Los Fresnos has won the 2013-2014 Verizon Innovative App Challenge, $20,000 for the school and a trip to Washington, D.C. for its creators.
Verizon announced Resaca as one of eight Best in Nation winners during a midday teleconference Wednes day that was streamed live to the board room of the Los Fresnos Consolidated Independent School District.
Even before the announcer had gotten the word “Resaca” completely out of his mouth, the six girls who are developing the app and their sponsor began jumping and screaming in exultation. Afterward they said finding out they had won only confirmed their hopes before the event.
The app is inspired by Andres Salas, a visually impaired Resaca sixth-grader. Once finished it will help him navigate inside Resaca Middle School or any other building.
“In education it is said that we stand the tallest when we bend to help a child,” Superintendent Gonzalo Salazar said at a hastily organized reception for the girls. “At the national level you are getting recognition for meeting that challenge.”
The six girls who won the award are Cassandra Baquero, Grecia Cano, Caitlyn Gonzalez, Kayleen Gonzalez, Janessa Leija and Jacqueline Garcia Torres.
Sandoval recognized their sponsor, science teacher Maggie Bolado, and Resaca Principal Asael Ruvalcaba as being exemplary of “the many dynamic teachers and administrators we have here in Los Fresnos.”
The girls won the award for the concept for their app. Several of them said during the commotion that followed the announcement that they had looked for a way to help their school and community and that helping Andres seemed like an attainable goal.
Bolado said she received the e-mail she had been waiting for a few days ago. It contains the link and the syllabus for the online course “Teaching App Creation with MIT App Inventor,” taught by app development experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab Center for Mobile Learning.
Once she receives the instruction, she and the girls will have until June 1 to actually create the app. As visualized, it will integrate digital tools such as a compass, scanner, VoiceOver, optical Braille readers and Google indoor navigation technology.
“We came up with the design and the components that are going to go into this app,” Bolado said. “Between now and June 1 the girls and I are going to have to build this.”
Andres was keeping close track of developments. “Man, it’s awesome,” he said when asked how it felt to have an app developed for him.
Grecia said she could feel her heart racing in the moments before the winners were announced.
“This makes me feel so excited and happy and very proud,” she said. “I felt like I was going to explode.”
The girls will present their app at the 2014 National Technology Student Association Conference in Washington, D.C., courtesy of Verizon.
The Verizon Foundation created the Innovative App Challenge in partnership with the TSA to encourage students to use technology to help solve local social issues.
Bolado traced the idea for the app to the Los Fresnos school district’s decision to institute a “bring your own device” policy at its schools this year. As part of the policy she was encouraged to connect with social media and discovered the Verizon Innovative App Challenge through her Twitter account.
“The proudest moment is having been the person that exposed these kids to such a big world,” she said of the prospect of presenting the app to technology leaders in the nation’s capital.
This story has been updated from it's earlier version. LBM