PLTW Gateway Students Create Mobile Apps to Solve Real-World Problems

Pam Rissmann is a STEM teacher at Dartmouth Middle School in San Jose, California. Visit her blog to learn more.

Students in my Introduction to Computer Science I class used the “Your Turn” assignment to get creative and build substantial applications. The project was introduced by showing the students last year’s winning apps from the Verizon Innovative App Challenge. It demonstrated how apps can help solve and bring awareness to important problems and social causes. Afterwards, I asked my students to build an application that has academic or social value to their peers.

Students rose to the challenge, and planned and created all kinds of interesting and useful applications – everything from an app to track charity donations, to a mood-lifting app, to an app that helps girls get out of uncomfortable situations. The students followed the engineering design cycle by brainstorming ideas and sketching out graphical user interfaces (GUIs) before beginning to code.

When students finished their projects, they created a slideshow of their development process and got constructive feedback from their peers. I used the following protocol: Students present without interruption, then students provide feedback using particular sentence starters, and then presenters respond to feedback. The sentence starters included “I like how … ” and “I wonder if … ”. These starters helped keep all input positive and constructive.

The images above are excerpts from the student presentation of the Getaway app built in MIT App Inventor, which allows girls to fake a phone call from someone in order to escape an uncomfortable or risky situation.