A new generation of UK digital makers equipped for their future with the Apps for Good Awards 2013, and there is more to come
By Heather McLean
Apps for Good, the UK-based technology education initiative, has announced the six winning teams in its 2013 Awards programme in its bid to equip school children with the tools to take the UK to the next level in app development and skills for business.
Travelling from schools right across the UK, the 24 finalist teams of students aged 11 to 18 came together to pitch in front of a panel of technology industry leaders for their chance to work with some of London's highest profile companies, and to design, create and bring their apps to market commercially.
Entry boom across UKThis year entries for the Apps for Good Awards has rocketed, from 300 teams with 80 entries in 2012, to 1,500 teams with 400 entries this year.
CEO of Apps for Good, Iris Lapinski, told Smart Chimps that this was a sign of government and teachers working towards the same cause: 'This is about top down and bottom up; From the top we have curriculum changes being made, and from the bottom we see teachers showing their growing discontent with the ICT curriculum as it doesn't encourage students. Now, there is freedom from the top to be innovative on the curriculum, but we wouldn't be growing so fast if there wasn't demand and need for this in schools.'
In London alone there were over 80,000 new tech job openings in the past two years according to The Skills Compass round table. Of the 161,000 job advertisements available in a survey of two years of data from the IT Job Board, 44.7% were in greater London, said digital marketing agency, Metia. In the City of London in 2012, there were a hefty 57,165 IT roles advertised.
Yet in contrast to those figures, last year only 3,420 students took Computing A-level in the whole of England, according to UK government figures. Out of those, a mere 255 were girls.
Lapinski continued: 'My ideal plan is for all students to have built three products themselves by the time they leave school. The failure rate of new products and policies is absurd; it's pathetically low. I believe this is because people don't know how to take a problem and find out if it works.
'We are using technology as a pull for young people; it excites and engages them, but the skills they learn including problem solving, creating products, product development, testing and launching of new products, plus knowing how to code and programme, will all help them in their future careers,' continued Lapinski.
To prepare for their pitch in a 'Dragon's Den' Style environment to industry experts in London this week, students were hosted by 12 startups from London's Tech City. The experience gave the young entrepreneurs a real insight into how tech startup organisations operate, Lapinski said.
Ultimate goal: Get radical'The ultimate goal of Apps for Good is to radically change the way technology education is taught in schools. We are building the confidence of the students taking part and developing their creative, business and digital skills for the future. This will ensure that young people are not only users and recipients of technology, but creators and makers,' noted Lapinski.
She told Smart Chimps that the losers in the annual competition were in fact more important than the winners. She explained: 'On one level, the non-winning teams are strategically more important to us than the winners as they have the skills to develop and continue, and each year there is more teams. What I'd like to see is those teams that don't win saying 'we think our app is great anyway, so we're going to go away and build it and prove you wrong!''
'We were stunned at the originality and creativity of the submissions this year. The ingenious ideas emerging from these talented young people is truly inspiring, and we are encouraged by the rapidly increasing number of girls involved in the scheme, as technology has traditionally attracted more boys. We look forward to seeing their brilliant app concepts develop into commercial reality, and for all the finalists to continue their journey of solving problems they care about,' she added.
On 3 June 2013, Apps for Good was announced as one of four British not-for-profit organisations to be awarded a major prize in the Google Global Impact Challenge 2013. Apps for Good will receive £500,000 and assistance from Google to significantly expand the programme and invest in its online delivery platform, increasing efficiency and ultimately reaching more than 175,000 students across the UK.
Lapinski commented on the Google win: 'The only way we can reach 30,000 students by September plus the 175,000 extra we promised Google is by investing in our platform, which gives teachers an easy way to access our content and run a course for their students, plus gives students a way to enter the competition, and for our experts to volunteer and interact with schools. Our platform will be able to scale and be sustainable to help us reach our goals. We launched it in September 2012 and we are already enhanvcing it base don feedback from users.'
Winners of Apps for Good 2013 AwardsThe winners of the six Apps for Good 2013 Awards categories began with the category called Power to do More – Getting the most from your time, sponsored by Dell, won by app 'Farm Management' by three 14 and 15 year old boys from Wick High School, Caithness. This app helps farmers to track and manage information about their cattle.
The next category, Keep Moving – Doing things on the go, sponsored by BlackBerry, was won by app 'Pitch Pals' by four girls aged 14 from Stratford Girls' Grammar School, Stratford-upon-Avon. This app uses playful animal characters to make instrument tuning fun for children.
The category Saving, Spending and Giving – Making the most from your money, sponsored by Barclaycard, was won by app 'Pocket Job', from four 13 and 14 year old girls from The Abbey School, Reading. This app helps teens find odd jobs in their local communities to earn pocket money.
Category Learning and Information – Helping others learn and using information for good, sponsored by Thomson Reuters, was won by 'Dog Log', by four 14 year girls again from Wick High School, Caithness. This app makes looking after your pet fun with points for good care.
The category Our World – Encouraging sustainable and healthy lifestyles, sponsored by SAP, was won by app 'Supportive Schedule', created by one boy and five girls all aged 15, from Nelson Thomlinson School, Wigton. It helps people with learning difficulties and Alzheimer's Disease plan their daily routines.
Category Connected Communities – Using technology to unite interests, ideas and good causes, sponsored by TalkTalk, was won by app 'Story Wall', by one boy and three girls all aged 13 years old from Cockburn School, Leeds. This is a collaborative storytelling app.
Finally, the special category, People's Choice Award, was won by 'Social Bank', which makes saving fun for young people. This was made by four 13 and 14 year old male students from Mount Grace School, Potters Bar.
Apps for Good engages young people in app creation through an online platform and in-classroom training, unlocking the confidence and talent of the students through creative learning programmes, in which they can use new technologies to design products that can make a significant difference to their lives, or the lives of others.