A mobile app designed by five Lime Kiln Middle School students that connects students to local volunteer opportunities will soon be available for download after it was selected as one of the eight best across the nation in a Verizon Wireless contest.
The Lime Kiln team of eighth-grade girls — Lauren Hayden, Annie Larkins, Rebecca Li, Korie Scott and Jessica Zinderman — were surprised Tuesday afternoon by Verizon representatives and Superintendent Renee Foose announcing they had been named a nationwide winner.
"I thought I was dreaming, I never would have expected that," Jessica said of her reaction to the announcement.
The girls were eating lunch with their advisor, Tracy Spillman, and constantly updating the Verizon website to see if they were a winner when they were surprised.
Through the Verizon Innovative App Challenge, the girls designed a mobile app concept called 'VolunteerMe' that connects students with volunteer opportunities in school and throughout the community.
As part of their recognition, the team will work with MIT Media Labs professionals in the coming weeks to help them develop their app and share it with the community. Apps that have been developed during the first two years of the challenge have been downloaded more than 26,000 times from the Google Play store, according to Verizon.
The girls also received Samsung tablets, a $20,000 cash grant for their school to support STEM-related programs, and a trip to Texas in June to present their app at the annual Technology Student Association.
The Innovative App Challenge requires middle and high school student teams to design a mobile application concept that addresses a need or problem in their local school or community. The challenge was created in partnership with the Technology Student Association in response to a critical need to inspire student interest in science, technology, engineering and math.
The VolunteerMe App is designed to help students find volunteer opportunities, track their volunteer times and promote a friendly competition among friends with a leaderboard tracking volunteer points.
"With this app, it will become much easier for high schoolers and middle schoolers to find ways to provide service to their communities," Korie said.
The Lime Kiln team is one of eight middle and high school teams across the country to receive a 'Best in Nation' award.
Other winning apps address societal issues such as teen suicide, dyslexia, unsafe driving and global warming.
"I'm so inspired by these students' commitment to giving, ingenuity, and determination to see this project through. Their app concept has the potential to engage more students in community service far beyond Howard County," Foose said in a statement. "Programs like the Innovative App Challenge inspire students to develop creative solutions to real-world challenges, while helping them to learn and apply coding skills."
Tuesday was supposed to be pajama day at Lime Kiln Middle School as part of the school's spirit week activities. But when school administrators learned of the accomplishment of five of their eighth graders, they quickly let the school know Tuesday would be 'Dress for Success' day.
"I think this [app] will be great for here at Lime Kiln and throughout Howard County," Lime Kiln Principal Scott Conroy said. "There are a lot of opportunities, but it's really hard to connect to all of those opportunities. This could be just a great tool for kids."