USF students to pitch MS app in Cape Town, South Africa

Two humanities students took an App Inventor course and built a prototype; two graduates in computer science pushed the project along by building a more complete version using Java. Together, this uncommon comingling of students is competing in an international mobile health (m-health) contest. And they just make the lives of thousands suffering from Multiple Sclerosis  (MS) just a little bit easier!

The school is University of San Francisco. The humanities students are Dylan Hindenlang and Samantha Lam, who walked into a core curriculum computer science course and will end their year traveling to Cape Town to pitch their project. The graduate students are Chen Chen and Yaoli Zheng, who for their final project in a Mobile Programming course worked with the humanities students and a person with MS to build a sophisticated piece of software. The contest is the GSMA Mobile Health Challenge to be held at the Mobile Health Summit 2012.

Yaoli Zheng, Chen Chen, Profesor David Wolber, Dylan Hindenlang, and Samantha Lam

App Inventor students, professors, and Googlers discuss their experience

Angelo Taylor is a University of San Francisco student who took my App Inventor course last year. He has created this video about our App Inventor course. Great work Angelo!

Video: University students interviewed about App Inventor

This video was created by University of San Francisco student Angelo Taylor. A longer version is coming soon. Do you have video of students working with or talking about App Inventor?

Android Games Built by Middle School Students at BAYCAT SF


App Inventor was used in the summer program BAYCAT–The Bay View- Hunters Point Center for Arts and Technology in San Francisco.  In just a few weeks, these students learned the basics of app building and created a game. One is a fashion app where you can drag clothes into a virtual closet. Another lets you grab for dollars before the police officer snatches you. Another lets you skateboard while boulders fall from the sky, while two others are fun soccer games. The students learned some complex programming, with if-else blocks, timer events, and the like, and they also had to work with Photoshop and other tools to build their user interfaces. Impressive work!

Congrats to the students and to their wonderful volunteer instructor, USF grad student Roderick Lisam.

Youth Radio’s Mobile Action Lab

Youth Radio's Mobile Action Lab

Youth Radio is an Oakland, CA organization which promotes young people’s intellectual, creative, and professional growth through education and access to media. They’ve won a MacArthur Digital Media and Learning Award and now they’re adding mobile apps to their game and and using App Inventor to make it happen.

Here’s a clip about them:

USF App Inventor Students Become App Inventor Teachers

USF Student-Teachers at the Technovation Challenge

USF Student-Teachers at the Technovation Pitch-Night

No women in computer science?  Not so fast! The University of San Francisco’s App Inventor class is helping to encourage more women into the field. These four students, recent A-listers in the USF course, are now helping high school girls learn programming and entrepreneurship in Iridescent’s Technovation Challenge.  Jenny Horowitz, Paige Carrington, Julie Cahill, and Melanie Garcia– Way to go!

For more info about the Tech Challenge, check out this PC World article

What is App Inventor? Ask Hal Abelson

Hal Abelson, the MIT professor who took a sabbatical at Google to develop App Inventor, wrote a recent piece for EDUCAUSE Quarterly. Not surprisingly, Hal’s article deftly characterizes the great potential of App Inventor in education and society. Here’s an excerpt that gets to the gist of App Inventor’s unique educational value:

One of my favorite App Inventor examples comes from an introductory computer appreciation course at Wellesley (one of the Google-sponsored pilots). The instructors, Takis Metaxas and Eni Mustafaraj, had the idea that students should learn about the societal implications of information systems by building some of these systems and seeing first-hand the choices involved. In one example, the class created a polling application. As people walked around the Wellesley campus, they could pull out their phones and see that there was a new poll — for example, “Who is your favorite female singer?” — and select and send their responses, which were recorded by a web server.

At the next class, Eni pulled up the web page and showed the results. Then she pulled up the database and said, “and here’s how you all voted.” The students were startled. In the “private” experience of using their phones to answer a poll, they’d simply not appreciated that:

  • The polling system could keep track of their identities along with their votes.
  • This was a choice made by the system designer.
  • They could experiment with that choice implementing their own variations of the polling system.

As a topic for introductory computing, this goes beyond the issues involved in learning about programming or computational thinking. It gives students direct experience with a technology — online polling — that has major social impact and lets them look through the eyes of the system implementer. By creating their own variations, students explore the design choices and grapple with the implications, social as well as technical. The next time these students encounter polling systems or proposals for electronic voting, they’ll be asking some good questions as informed citizens.