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Liberty sixth-grade team’s project wins ‘Best of State’

From left, Ariana Koustrup, Kianna Neeb, Max Wieland, Jacy Olafson, Kamden Coles and Carter Larson talk about the School Handy app designed by the team in Gretchen Peterson’s sixth-grade math class at Liberty Middle School in West Fargo. Photo by Carrie Snyder

A team of Liberty Middle School sixth-graders has developed a conceptual smartphone application that addresses being late for class, forgetting supplies and losing items at school.

Their app, called “School Handy,” won “Best of State” in the 2014-15 Verizon Innovative App Challenge.

The seven students in Gretchen Peterson’s math class started working on the project in September.

“We worked on it every week from September through November, once a week during class,” Peterson said.

The app has lots of fun features, said student Carter Larson.

“If you lose something in your school and you go home and don’t know where it is, you can check the app and there’s a picture of what’s on lost and found,” Larson said.

That’s just one component.

“We have another function,” said classmate Kamden Coles. “It’s a supply function. You can see what you need for each class. It also has a schedule so you can see what time your class starts.”

The mock app isn’t intended for use by students only. Parents could also use it to help their children check class supply needs and help them get ready for school, said student Jacy Olafson.

It’s easy to tell that the students are proud of their School Handy app.

“We won best in the state,” said Ariana Koustrop.

All of them enthusiastically chime in to answer questions about the project.

“We learned a lot about working with a team and a lot about problem-solving,” said Max Wieland.

The students incorporated science, technology, English and math (STEM) learning disciplines while working on the project, said Kianna Neeb.

Students were required to create a video presentation and write an essay about their app concept, said Coles.

Larson said he really wants to create his own app someday. “I’ve always liked stuff like that,” he said.

As part of the STEM curriculum, students have been learning about electrical engineering focusing on telecommunications, Peterson said.

The Verizon App Challenge allows students to collaborate in teams and communicate their own ideas as well as build an app that incorporates everyone’s ideas, she said.

“Students are extremely engaged and excited when working on this project,” Peterson said, because they get to collaborate, use and design an app that addresses a problem within their school.

Several member of the team already use real apps on their smartphones.

“I use a ton of them,” said Larson, mostly games.

“I use some news apps and sports apps,” said Wieland.

This is the third year that West Fargo schools have participated in the Verizon App Challenge.

In 2013, a team of sixth-graders from West Fargo’s STEM Center was one of 10 national Verizon App Challenge winners for their “Recycle Bin” app.

Last year, a Cheney Middle School team also captured best in the nation for an app called “Snapdocs.”

The Liberty Middle School students recently learned that their app was not selected for regional competition.

So the competition is done for them this year, Peterson said.