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DLR 8th graders unveil apps on final day of semester

9 week course ends with students making their own apps

A homework tracker. A calorie tracker. A memory game.

These are some of the examples of applications that eighth graders at David L. Rahn Junior High School in Mt. Morris made themselves from scratch in the school’s new App Creators course.

The nine-week course allowed students to create and problem solve using the MIT App Inventor software in combination with a curriculum called Project Lead The Way. The most recent project puts this students in a scenario whereby they create an app solving a real-world problem. The students unveiled their projects on Thursday, Dec. 19.

“I think in our tech world that we live in, it only makes sense that they have a class that teaches them how computers and apps work, the basic idea of putting these into action,” Nate Rogers, the instructor of the course, said. “For them, it makes it relevant to their life. And who doesn’t want to learn things that are relevant.”

DLR Junior High is a part of the Oregon School District. The idea to implement the course came when Heidi Deininger, the district’s high school principal, had her child in a similar specialized course through Project Lead The Way at another school.

The Oregon School District is now aligned with PLTW’s computer science program. Rogers had to attend a ‘rigorous’ five-day program in order to be certified to teach it. The program condensed nine weeks into five days and overwhelmed the teachers, but it was worth it.

“It exposes every kid to that basic introduction of coding,” DLR Principal Kip Crandall said. “And when they get into it and realize how cool it is, it probably unlocks the potential that some kids didn’t know they had. Especially targeting young females in the field of technology is super important to us.”

The MIT App Inventor software is free. The district’s largest expense for this program was the purchase of tablets that were compatible with the software and other tech at the school. The students’ apps can be uploaded onto the Google Play Store to be downloaded by anybody.

Rogers is not yet certified to teach the precursor course to App Creators, but will be next after next summer. He and his students will both be better prepared after that. This semester’s class was ‘sink or swim’ for the first couple of weeks due to the difficulty of learning coding.

“Some of them were so frustrated at the beginning because it was hard to understand,” Rogers said. “Now they’ve gotten to a point where they’re like, ‘I really like this.’ That part has meant the world.”

Kylar Early’s calorie tracker app shows average and total calories after users enter them along with their name and age. It also shows how much of each food category the user needs.

Aubree Schefcik and Eliana West developed a homework tracker app. The user enters assignments they’re given and when they’re due. The app sends reminders about assignments with the specified page number and problems to be done.

Danyelle Bettner and Kennedy Black made a self-help app for students who could be victims of bullying. The app shows different types of bullying. Users enter the frequency of their harassment and information about how it happened and are then provided with resources.

“We chose this one because we figured a lot of people get bullied and have stress at home and at school and in public,” Bettner said. “We just wanted to help people.”

“When you talk to area schools, they don’t have something like this,” Crandall said. “We’re super proud of our kids.”