Bronx School 6th Graders Snag Top Tech Honor

By Stan Friedman

NEW YORK, NY (March 28, 2013) – Bronx Academy of Promise charter school, founded in part by two ministers who planted Promised Land Covenant Church, is one of 10 schools in the country to win a $10,000 grant, thanks to a team of sixth graders who created a mobile app – Quest Math – that helps students increase their speed in basic math by playing a mythology-themed game.

More than 1,000 schools participated in The Verizon Innovative App Challenge. The school must use the money on expanding technology capacity, and each team member will receive a Samsung Galaxy Note 10 device.

The winning teams will work with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab to bring their apps to market.

Michael Carrion and Ruben Austria were part of a group of social activists who founded the school. Carrion and Austria designed the white paper and vision of the South Bronx School. Both serve on the board and Carrion serves as its chair. Several families from the school attend the church, and the congregation has helped the school in various ways.

The school is located in one of New York’s most under-served communities, which makes the six-member student team’s accomplishment all the more remarkable. The school has only two computers per classroom. A laptop is brought around on a cart to each classroom once a week, says Principal Catherine Jackvony.

To design the app, students would borrow their teachers’ mobile devices. Players must use basic math skills to progress from level to level, each of which is based on a Greek god. “Our students are really into Greek mythology,” says Jackvony.

The math problems become more complex as students advance each level. If a player answers incorrectly three times in a row, a tutor resource pops up to provide help.

Ironically, it was Hurricane Sandy that led to the students even starting the project. The devastating storm forced the school to close for five days, and one of the instructors researched possible technology grant opportunities while at home during that period, says Jackvony.

The principal was excited about the idea when the teacher presented it to her. “It’s so important to think outside the box.”

The students worked during the mornings and after school on the project. They presented their idea via a webinar to a panel that included members of the National Geographic Society and MIT.

The students will work with technical advisors from MIT to make the app a reality and will present it in June during a student technology conference in Orlando, Florida.

Jackvony says the winning students were thrilled when Verizon officials showed up to inform the school it had won the contest. “They’re probably six of the quietist children in the sixth grade, so to see them so excited was really great.”

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