Great things happen when creativity, ingenuity and hard work come together. That's the idea behind the Verizon Innovative App Challenge, a nationwide contest which encourages teams of high school and middle school students to design smart phone applications.
Thousands of kids entered the Challenge this school year, and both Broward and Miami-Dade counties can boast of having winning teams. The Best in State for the middle school division is a group from Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale. A team from Dr. Krop High School in Northeast Miami-Dade finished first at the high school level.
"As the host of the App Challenge, we're extremely excited to be a part of it, and these students are without a doubt fantastic," said Beth Bailey, an executive with Verizon Wireless. "We're giving these kids an opportunity to do something that maybe they wouldn’t have the opportunity to do."
The team of seventh-graders from Pine Crest has an idea which could revolutionize concussion protocols in football. Their idea was to create an app, using sensors built into football helmets and connected to transmitters, which could warn coaches and trainers when a player has his bell rung too hard.
"When a player has enough, sustained force that they might have a concussion the app would send a little notification to the coach, kind of like you get a text message that says 'hey, player number 87 had a concussion, pull him off the field for inspection,'" said Chase O’Brien, one of the students on the App Challenge team.
The team from Krop High calls its idea Languasign. It would be the first app to translate sign language into written text. A hearing-impaired person would sign into the phone's camera, in any of the world's dozens of sign languages, and the app would automatically translate it into any language. Sign language grammar is very different from written-language grammar, so the app knocks down a significant barrier.
"Using this type of function where they can sign to the camera instead of actually typing it in, they get to use their own grammar and have it automatically translate into the correct grammar that the rest of the hearing community can understand," said Ben Manley, a member of Krop’s team.
"So if we could take it on an international level we’re not only helping American deaf people but also deaf people around the world," added teammate Eliza Morton.
The App Challenge isn't over. The Best in State teams each won $5,000 for their schools and each member of the teams won a new computer tablet. Now the public can vote for the Fan Favorite, the national champions of the Challenge. The winners of the Fan Favorite competition receive an additional $15,000 for their schools, and experts from MIT will help the kids actually create their apps so that they are no longer theoretical, the apps would really become available to people who want them.
To vote for the Krop team's Languasign, simply text Languasign1 to 22333.
To vote for the Pine Crest team’s concussion warning app, text FTDC2 to 22333.
Good luck to everyone involved!