D214 students display tech skills at flagship Apple store

Who doesn't love a well-designed and useful mobile app - the ones on which we rely so often?

But have you ever wondered who has the creativity and technical savvy to create these apps? After all, using apps is one thing - but understanding how they are created? That's another matter - one addressed in computer science classes across District 214.

As a result, many of our students have developed impressive skills. So advanced, in fact, that six winning teams in District 214's recent App Showcase were invited by Apple's education team and engineers to present at the tech giant's flagship Michigan Avenue Store on May 25.

"It is nerve-racking walking across one of the biggest Apple stores to present," said John Hersey High School junior Alex Strugacz. "But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't really excited to present."

One app deemed a winning entry by Apple judges allows users to enter an ingredient or two and then generates an entire recipe. Another is for language learning. One tracks personal habits. One is a social media app with the ability to record and publish 7-second videos.

Yet another food-prep app, "EasyMeal: Recipes" - created by Strugacz and three teammates - includes filters for healthy choices and has earned a spot in Apple's App Store.

Apple representatives said District 214's appearance at their store was unique, because some District 214 students had finished their coding and had fully functioning apps, whereas high school students typically present concepts or prototypes.

Student apps displayed during the App Showcase - 73 in all - clearly were the product of careful thought and programming. Take, for instance, Hersey junior Andrea Arana, who worked with teammate Anna Wojnicki to create a personal habit tracker when she couldn't find what she wanted among existing options.

The App Showcase entries ran the gamut of utility, from games to study tools and from social media to school solutions, such as digital hall passes.

Hersey High School computer science teacher Bob Brown, who has witnessed and helped lead an exponential expansion of learning opportunities and student participation in recent years, called Apple's presence at the App Showcase invaluable.

"To have the attention of an Apple engineer that works with code on a daily basis?" Brown said, marveling at the opportunity. "That's very difficult to do."

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