Thirteen middle school students completed the CS Pathways app design camp held at Everett High School from July 11 through July 15. The camp was based on the use of MIT App Inventor, a blocks-based programming system for creating apps for Android tablets and phones.
The students were joined by two community partners:
- Gina Matarazzo from Energize Everett, which works to “increase opportunities for Everett residents to eat healthy and be active in the places they live, learn, work, and play”
- Emilie Schuler from the Grassroots Wildlife Conservation Association, which supports “informed and passionate people who work to protect the rare species that live in their neighborhoods.”
The community partners met with the students at the beginning of the week to share with the students their own personal stories and the missions of their organizations.
Ms. Matarazzo spoke about how she works with kids and adults to set goals and help them keep track of their progress in becoming more health conscious.
Ms. Schuler described her work helping a local wild species called the Blanding Turtle, once widely seen in Eastern Massachusetts, make a recovery. This turtle recently has seen its numbers decline as local wetlands are taken away by development.
The students then worked in pairs to brainstorm ideas and develop apps to assist with these missions. This year, campers used AppVis, a new technology developed by UMass Lowell which allows App Inventor users to publish data to the web-based iSENSE database.
By the end of the week, the students had developed eight apps, which are now published in the Google Play app store. The students developed six healthy-eating apps and two turtle conservation apps, including:
- GrassRoots: The Wild Side, by Kiara Cordero and Aroshi Rahnuma. This app teaches you how to recognize turtles, take photographs of them, and publish turtle sightings.
- Health, by Lulya Tesfamicael. This app provides information about healthy eating and exercise, lets you set goals for personal weight loss, and shows you a graph of your progress over time.
At the end of the week, the community partners returned to see the students’ work. Ms. Matarazzo remarked, “I was so fascinated by how innovative the kids were in creating the apps that met our specific needs. Their excitement and enthusiasm for not only building their app but also their interest in thinking about health and fitness was so inspiring.”
All students who participated in the camp week published an app in the Google Play store. Their apps can be downloaded from the Middle School Pathways in Computer Science Google Play developer storefront.
The camp lead teachers were Damian DeMarco and Lori Blank. UMass Lowell graduate students Farzeen Harunani and Mark Sherman and undergraduates Ashley Hale and Michael Kusmirek assisted throughout the week. Project staff member Akira Kamiya led camp logistics and also worked with students throughout the week.
The camp was conducted as part of the Middle School Pathways in Computer Science project, a collaboration among the school districts of Everett and Medford and the University of Massachusetts Lowell. The goal of the project is to institutionalize computer science instruction in the middle school curricula of the two districts.
The project is supported by a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation.