Teams of girls in New York City, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area spent 10 weeks designing a mobile app so they could pitch the final product at a national competition at the end of the course.
Students outside of Raleigh, N.C., learned different programming languages to create their own apps in a largely independent but rigorous after-school program.
And in the nation's capital students meet each week to learn not only how to make their own apps, but also how to hone leadership and entrepreneurial skills, such as marketing, creating a business plan, and public speaking.
A growing number of after-school programs for boys and girls that draw on students' interest in applications for mobile devices are evolving throughout the country. Such programs can be a gateway to learning computer programming, as well as business and marketing lessons, which educators believe equip students with lifelong skills to succeed in college and the workforce.
Some of the programs aim especially to engage girls.
"The reason we use app development is because girls are already pretty interested in their phones," says AnnaLise Hoopes, the director of educational and corporate partnerships for the San Francisco-based Technovation, which aims to promote the role of women in technology fields by teaching girls to create their own apps. "It's a very nonintimidating mode of computer science because it's something they can already relate to."
The program, which takes place in San Francisco; Mountain View, Calif.; Berkeley, Calif.; San Jose, Calif.; Boston; New York City; and Los Angeles, pairs up teams of five high school-age girls with female technology entrepreneurs as mentors.
In addition, the program brings in guest lecturers throughout the 10-week program to talk with the girls about opening their own businesses in the technology field.
"They tell [the girls] what challenges they faced, and they really share honestly about what it takes to get to a successful place. ... It's inspiring for the girls," says Hoopes.
Since the program began in 2010, students have created such applications as the IOU app, which tracks borrowed money and other items; the Life Pyramid, which gathers data about exercise, sleep habits, and stress to help the user maintain a healthy lifestyle; and Tab Attack!, an app that helps users learn to play drums, guitar, and other instruments.
At the end of the course, the teams of girls compete in regional competitions, and the winners then go to a national competition called Pitch Night, where they present their apps to a panel of judges. The national winner's app gets professionally produced and is put on sale on Google Play.
"My hope is that they learn the process of creating a product and taking it to market just like they would as an adult entrepreneur," says Hoopes.
To pay for the program, Technovation partners with corporate technology sponsors in the local areas where the program operates. "Finding and securing these sponsorships is an ongoing challenge," Hoopes says.
"This year, we expanded significantly, and were able to work with twice as many new schools," she says. "Our goal was to target underrepresented minorities."
Girls in the Technovation program use App Inventor, created in 2009 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Hal Abelson, who co-chairs the MIT Council on Educational Technology, in partnership with Google. The tool, which has since moved from Google to MIT, is a Web-based program that allows users with little programming experience to create mobile apps for Android devices.
Most Popular Stories
- Adam Levine Wins Big as 'The Voice' Crowns Champ
- Target Security Breach May Affect 40 Million Cardholders
- Archer Daniels Midland Moving HQ to Chicago
- Tyson Foods Charged With Civil Rights Violation
- 'Beyonce' Tops the U.S. Album Chart
- Texting With Vodka: Booze and Social Media Can Mix After All
- Bernanke Lets Congress Have It in Final Press Conference
- How to Protect Yourself After Target Data Breach
- Wall Street Falls a Day After Surge
- Hispanic PR Firm Launches Chicago Chapter