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Mount Vernon students win app development contest

MOUNT VERNON -- Four eighth-grade students in Mount Vernon are celebrating a first-place finish in a statewide app development contest, but their work is far from over.

School supply photo illustration. (Matt Gade/Republic)
School supply photo illustration. (Matt Gade/Republic)
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MOUNT VERNON - Four eighth-grade students in Mount Vernon are celebrating a first-place finish in a statewide app development contest, but their work is far from over.

For their top performance in the Verizon Innovative Learning App Challenge, which featured more than 1,800 submissions, Gavin Franks, Kolby Kayser, Lily Mikkonen and Logan Tlam earned Mount Vernon School District $5,000 and will each receive a Verizon Ellipsis 10 tablet.

The contest is designed for students to create an idea for an app they believe would better their school, community or the world at large, according to the students’ teacher, Jeff Sand.

“It’s great for students because it forces them to come up with the app, collaborate and work together to come up with a new and innovative way to look at things or problem solve issues that are affecting us,” Sand said.

Students used a website to create the layout of what their app would look like if it was to be developed, including a menu, features and narrations to explain their concept.  

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Sands’ students came up with a fresh take on staying healthy.

Their app, FitFresh, identified what they believe to be a worldwide problem in which people struggle to eat healthy and get regular exercise. FitFresh distinguishes itself from other fitness apps by integrating new ideas, Sand said. For example, it integrates a meal sharing program that people can create a group with different people assigned days to cook meals each week and a calorie camera, which would allow a person to take a picture of a meal and the app would calculate the calories and nutritional value of the meal.

Students began work on the project in early October and submitted their final product in mid-November.

“I’m very proud of their hard work and creativity the kids put into this. It’s been fun to watch them grow over the semester,” Sand said. “It’s a worthwhile project and the kids are pretty pumped they won.”

But the group has its sights set on an even larger prize.

The four students in Sand’s technology class were automatically entered into a regional contest and are eligible to compete for the contest’s “fan favorite” award.

The class is in the process of creating a 30-second commercial for their app which will be posted online Jan. 16.

To win, the group needs to receive the most votes from the public prior to Feb. 14. If chosen as the fan favorite, Mount Vernon would receive an additional $15,000 cash prize, students would be sent on a trip to Orlando, Florida, and the group’s app idea could possibly be turned into a real app that could be downloaded onto mobile devices.

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But, for now, the district is focused on determining how to spend the $5,000 it has already won.

“We’re just trying to wrap our heads around this,” Sand said. “We’ll sit down and determine our needs and where money will be best spent in areas related to science technology, engineering and math. We’ll look into our options, but wherever it goes, it will be money well spent.”

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