A group of Bartlett High School freshmen have developed an app that helps track calories and graph exercise progress.
It earned the school top honors in the 2014 Verizon Innovative App Challenge. Bartlett was among four winning high schools that placed nationally. Its team also earned the titles of best in state and the Midwest region, said Philip Church, Bartlett High academy biology instructor.
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An early version of the students' winning app, Fittastick, is now available through the Google Play app store for Android devices. The free app is not yet available for Apple devices.
"The making and designing of the app was a thrilling experience," said Autumn Chung, 15, one of six students on the winning team.
It's the first time Bartlett High students participated in the contest, now in its second year.
Students Chung, Ivana Bozic, Aishwarya Jois, Amar Patel, Purav Shah and Shil Shah -- part of the high school's Mathematics, Science and Engineering Academy -- developed the app. They plan to release an updated version before presenting the app June 27 at the Technology Student Association national conference in Washington, D.C.
The students hope to eventually create a version of the app for Apple devices, Church said.
The team started developing the app in October after learning about the Verizon challenge.
"The initial part of the contest was just (developing) a concept," Church said.
The students created a video of their concept, wrote an essay, did the initial research and submitted it for the contest. It's that concept that won them the state and Midwest region titles.
They then developed the app with help from Google and Massachusetts Institute of Technology's App Inventor program, which is designed to make app development easier for beginners.
"The students did all of the programming and editing of the app with the help of a sponsor/mentor," Church said. The Midwest region award resulted in a $5,000 grant for Bartlett High School, with an additional $15,000 awarded for placing nationally. The money will be used "to help us expand STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education," Church said.
Each student also received a Samsung Galaxy Note tablet as a prize.
"It was great to win the money and the tablets, but the real perk was learning the MIT App Inventor software, being taught to us by an amazing professor," said Purav Shah, 15. "It's an awesome feeling to write the code behind an application, and then see it put to use."
The top four high school winners and four middle school winners nationally will be featured at the technology conference as part of a Verizon presentation on the challenge, Church said.
"(The students) will be flown to the conference and introduced to some pretty high corporate people," Church said.
Church said officials have been trying to publicize the app's availability within the school community through email and Twitter, which has boosted student engagement. "A lot of the faculty and the community has been really supportive," he added.
App: Each student received tablet as a prize