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Northland and Olathe students take state prizes in national app contest

Updated: 2014-02-11T14:53:06Z


Special to The Star

The Kansas City area boasts two state winners in the Verizon Innovative App Challenge.

A team of five upperclassmen at Staley High School in Kansas City, North, and a team of seven sophomores from Olathe Northwest High School were named the Missouri and Kansas winners of the second national competition to develop mobile apps that address a need in their schools or community. Verizon chose two winners from each state, from a middle school and a high school. No local middle schools won the contest.

The Staley team, Lucas Wyland, Ian Collins, John Goldsberry, Jonah Witcig and Derick McCary designed an app to boost communication for groups or clubs.

“When you’re in sports or other activities, it’s kind of hard to organize stuff through email or text messaging,” said Wyland, a senior on the Staley team. “This app allows those groups to schedule events, post agendas and keep track of attendance.”

Over at Olathe Northwest the team — Drew Krause, Bo Steele, Jack Perkins, A.J. Null, Bailey McAuley, Jeffrey Payne and Jesse Rose — from the district’s aerospace and engineering program, created an app to help students easily find jobs or community service work.

“We talked to a bunch of our friends and we realized a lot of students have trouble finding jobs because not many people want to hire a 16- or 17-year-old,” said Krause. “There are a lot of kids who just want to make extra money on the weekends or after school. This app can help connect them with people who do want to hire for temporary work.”

Each teams spent hours after school brainstorming ideas, piecing together a concept and creating a short video and detailed essay about their app.

“When I come up with ideas for my own projects, I don’t have anyone to give me feedback,” said Wyland, who wants to be a software engineer one day. “I realized being able to toss ideas back and forth with other people not only made the process easier, but it created a much better product.”

Neither team was one of the 24 regional winners that were named this month, but the students success at the state level proved the importance of teamwork, setting realistic deadlines and managing time.

“This entire process has given us experience for the real world,” Steele said. “Collaborating with other people to solve problems is something we’ll have to face no matter what career we choose.”

Plus, the kids added, since everything seems to be going mobile nowadays, learning how to conceptualize an app is a vital skill for anyone who wants a computer science career.

Their faculty advisers agree.

Lesley Martin, the faculty adviser of the Staley team, wishes there were more competitions like the Verizon Innovative App Challenge.

“A competition like this one gives these students validation outside of school, which is invaluable,” she said. “It’s one thing for a teacher to say you’re great; it’s another to be named best in the state by Verizon Wireless.”

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