FHSD Hosts App Camp

Posted on 07/24/2017
FHSD Hosts App Camp

To help promote learning during the summer months, the Francis Howell School District hosted App Camp,
 where middle school students learn to create and market a mobile app. This is the third year for the camp, and students had the unique opportunity to construct a storyboard for their application idea, use programming languages to develop their app, and also create a marketing plan for their app.

The program was held during two different five-day sessions at Barnwell Middle School, and each week was attended by approximately 60 students. All FHSD summer school programs, including the App Camp, were fully funded by the state of Missouri, which makes it possible for the District to offer these programs at no cost to students.

“Students learn how to create and market a mobile app,” said David Brothers, Director of Assessment and Summer Programs. “Students use programming languages to develop their app, design a marketing plan to make a pitch for their app, and then they can choose to publish their App on the Google Play store.”

The course is taught workshop style, which allows students to help each other and fully explore the programs. Three advisors helped to co-teach the camp, and two high-school A+ students were present to help monitor campers and provide additional support. “The students are guided through tutorials in the beginning of the week and create the apps towards the end of the week,” said Carmen Kenney-Hill, Geography/Technology and Information Literacy Teacher at Hollenbeck Middle School and the coordinator of the program.

Mornings would begin with students exploring existing apps, and providing their own personal review. This encourages students to think as a designer, rather than a consumer, and understand the various complexities that come along with developing a real-world app. Students were then challenged to think what consumers would want from the apps they developed.

A checklist style worksheet helped to keep the students on track, but also provided them with open room for interpretation. In addition to learning valuable coding and computer skills, students also used their creative problem solving skills. “They are at an age where it’s so easy to give-up or ask for help,” said Kenney-Hill. “The apps really encourage them to go through the code, figure out what went wrong, and find a solution.”

Students utilized MIT APP Inventor to code Android apps, a program that simplifies the coding process used to create applications. Quick Response (QR) links allow the students to scan in the code they are working on to a tablet device and see it live on their screen. “I like that we can create multiple different apps,” said eighth grader Linzy Williams. “It will help me with my computer classes in the future.”

“We also reviewed existing apps and explore app controlled robots, devices and toys,” said Kenney-Hill. These devices not only created a fun atmosphere, but also provided another perspective for the students in regards to what they can create. “I liked using the race cars,” said eighth grader Matthew Castro. “The tablets connect to the cars and you can race them around on a track.”

Students were given the opportunity to share completed apps with the public through Google Play Store, using the District’s publishing license. Published apps are available for download here and can be viewed on any device that can access the Google Play Store.

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