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Courant: At Pathways To Technology Magnet School, Students To Develop Mobile Apps

Friday February 3, 2012

At Pathways To Technology Magnet School, Students To Develop Mobile Apps
Tech Firm Lenovo Donated $25K In Technology For New Class
by Vanessa De La Torre
February 3, 2012
©The Hartford Courant

Got an app for that?

In Windsor, the answer at Pathways to Technology Magnet High School is: We’re working on it.

The global tech firm Lenovo has donated 30 ThinkPad tablets and six desktop computers for a new class this semester in which students will develop android casino-based mobile applications.

The Hartford school system’s interdistrict magnet is among five schools in the country affiliated with the National Academy Foundation that each received a $25,000 technology package from Lenovo to pilot the mobile apps course over the next few months. The NAF is a network of career-themed high schools.

The 18-student class started this week and the tablets arrived Wednesday, said Raul Vargas, a Pathways technology teacher. Soon, the teenagers will divide into three groups, each of which will develop and market a mobile application that may end up on the Android market.

Students are expected to create business plans, including logos and a brand identity, for their apps. The top one, teachers said, will then be presented before a panel of Lenovo judges at NAF’s summer conference inWashington, D.C.

Pathways will compete with the four other schools for the most marketable idea that Lenovo could choose to develop. “We really want to be the best,” said Kim Davis, Pathways’ magnet theme coach.

Midway through the semester, NAF and Lenovo also plan to convene with experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to see how the course can be improved, said Maria Alutto, the network’s academy development director. Next school year, she said, the hope is to offer the program to NAF’s 100 information technology academies in the United States.

All of Pathway’s roughly 325 students had the chance to apply for the course. They just had to submit a resume listing their strengths, such as public speaking or actual coding experience.

Stephanie Balboni of Manchester, a 17-year-old senior who is one of four girls in the class, said she has done programming for the school’s robotics team, but this was the first time she handled a tablet computer. On Thursday, Balboni and a classmate tested an existing music app that turns the screen into piano keys.

The technology has been a draw, Vargas said. Already, there seems to be regret among some students who chose not to submit a resume, he said. “I’m sure they want one of those sweet tablets.”

For Rocky DeHart, a 16-year-old junior from East Hartford, the class ties into his internship with Manchester’s human resources department. The town is looking to develop apps for residents, including one that would pinpoint the location of defibrillators, said DeHart, who has been receiving technical training.

Vargas and business teacher John Griffin said they expect the students to teach them a few things.

“I’m from that generation where technology was nothing like it is now,” said Griffin, who is co-instructing the class and has taught in Hartford schools for 32 years. “I’m looking at this as a great learning opportunity for me, too, not just the kids.”

The four other participating schools are the Academy of Information and Technology at Grover Cleveland High School in New York City; the Academy of Information and Technology at Downtown Magnets High School in Los Angeles; the A.J. Moore Academy of Information and Technology in Waco, Texas; and Apex High School’s Academy of Information Technology in Apex, N.C.

Link: http://www.courant.com/community/hartford/hc-hartford-pathways-technology-0203-20120203,0,2810848.story