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CHCCS Students Excel in App Development Contest

On Saturday, April 17, students from across North Carolina pitched their student-created apps to a panel of industry professionals and community leaders as part of the state's Ready, Set, App! initiative, sponsored by the nonprofit North Carolina Business Committee for Education (NCBCE), in partnership with Lenovo. The apps must be designed by teams of three to five students with the goal to provide a positive impact on their school or community.

The Ready, Set, App! competition is an Android mobile application development challenge for North Carolina public high school and public charter school students. Student teams are tasked with developing a functional and original mobile app that solves a problem using a mobile app development platform (e.g., MIT App Inventor).

Governor Cooper announced the top three teams on May 7, saying, “Developing an app takes teamwork, persistence and knowledge of technology, all skills that can serve students well in school and in their future careers,” Governor Cooper said. “Congratulations to these Ready, Set, App! winning students for coming up with ingenious solutions to real-world problems.”

Two of the final six teams in the statewide competition included students from CHCCS. The app "Go Compost" won second place in the overall competition, with student developers from Chapel Hill High School (CHHS), East Chapel Hill High School (ECHHS) and Smith Middle School (SMS): Yichen Sun, Bo Chi, Yikuan Sun, and Ben Li, from the NC School of Science and Math. A team of three students from ECHHS, Andrea Basuroski, Darya Loiko and Andrea Wang, won sixth place with "ConnecTeen".

“Go Compost” promotes composting as an actionable solution to today’s food waste crisis by working as a learning tool for composting beginners. The group was led by Garrison Reid, director of Academy of Information Technology, for Chapel Hill High School. The “Go Compost” students shared this about their inspiration for the app: “We have been passionately involved in organizing environmental activities for years as volunteers. Although the unexpected pandemic paused our service-learning events, we reached out to offer help in other possible ways to continue our commitment to service despite the constraints. From the education coordinator of the county’s waste management, we learned that composting is a high priority area. We felt a personal connection to this issue as we often toss away valuable food waste without thought, and as we ate at home more, the problem has only gotten worse. With this need in mind, we researched more composting information regarding its significance and barriers.”

Li added, "When we found out that composting was a primary issue and focus for Orange County, we wanted to somehow apply our skills and interests in STEM to contribute towards the cause of composting. We decided to design a mobile app as an accessible tool to promote community composting. After brainstorming and prioritizing our app's features, with the goal of addressing issues such as lack of awareness, motivation, or community support regarding composting, we took on the challenge. After several months, we are excited to see how our app has come together, and now that it has been released for iOS and Android we hope to encourage the community to strive towards environmental sustainability together."

The Ready, Set, App! overview states, "'ConnecTeen' aims to mitigate the negative effects that the online schooling environment has created such as a lack of socialization, organization and anxiety. Through the integration of features like the Assignment Tracker, Course Planner, Clubs and Events CAlendar, the app developers hope to ease the transition back to in-person school in the fall."

Basuroski said, “The project was very valuable for our team mates, and we are so glad that we participated. We were simply looking to find a cool project through which we could explore computer science and app development. Presenting at the pitch competition and seeing all the other amazing apps that our peers developed was really eye opening. Witnessing the talent and skills people our age have and what they (and we) could accomplish was really motivating, especially during this difficult time.”

All three ECHHS team mates are leaders in the club WSTEM, and their adviser is Math Teacher, Hannah Baskin.

The "ConnecTeen" statement includes this, "As we are all part of a club focused on closing the gender gap in STEM fields, we had pretty diverse team members. Three out of five of our original members are people of color, with all of them being women. A majority of our team members are immigrants. We found that this diversity of cultures and ethnicities helped bring in a lot of cross-cultural understanding and diversity of thought."

This year's competition was only the second Ready, Set, App!, but it drew almost 50 teams from across the state. The next competition will feature a kickoff event in the fall 2021.