Warren Easton Charter School’s academy of engineering has been selected as the only school in Louisiana — and one of only 20 nationwide — to participate in a mobile app development program during to 2015-2016 academic year.
The program, called the Lenovo Scholar Network, provides NAF academies and students with mobile application development curriculum, access to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab’s App Inventor development tool and donation of 20 laptops and tablets for student to learn coding and app creation.
Kim Henry, math teacher at Warren Easton and part of the school’s academy of engineering, said selection for the program is an honor.
“I think it gives the kids an incredible opportunity that they can directly see the benefit,” Henry said.
“Kids use apps all the time on their phone and to even just, in a general broad sense, have an understanding of how they were made,” she said. “So I think it’s just an all around good opportunity to get kids interested in STEM.”
According to Henry, as a part of the Lenovo Scholar Program, students will develop mobile apps on Android devices, and also develop a business plan to propose to take the apps to market.
Warren Easton students demonstrated three of their apps they have developed thus far: Magic Trick, Magic Hat, and Paint Pot.
Magic Trick is an app where the user taps an image of a traditional magician’s hat, and a rabbit, pig, or other animal pops out of the hat with sound effects such as a “Ta-Da” or an “oink.” The Magic Hat app allows the user to ask a question and tap on a magician’s hat and an answer will be generated, similar to a Magic 8 Ball. And the Paint Pot allows users to paint or draw on any background or picture using their finger.
According to students some of the initial ideas for the apps were makeup tutorials, a celebrity style app, and an app to teach children to tie shoes.
Ty-Keah Dewey, a junior at Warren Easton and a part of the school’s academy of engineering, said that the class split into groups to brainstorm ideas, and then collectively decided which ones they wanted to develop.
“It came out in a positive way,” Dewey said.
Dewey said that students are still working on how to make the apps more user friendly and likeable.
Dewey said that she is looking to become an engineer or pediatrician, and feels the school’s academy of engineering is already preparing her.
“I feel that the academy of engineering at Warren Easton will prepare for the future by just teaching me new things, getting certified for whatever I need to do and just getting ahead of what I want to do in the future for college; learning the basic stuff,” Dewey said.
According to Henry, Warren Easton offers four engineering courses in the school’s academy and will be graduating its first cohort of about 22 seniors this school year.
Henry said that academy is similar to a career track that students can study along with the school’s curriculum. She said that she believes the academy gives students a leg up.
“I have chemical engineering degree and did engineering for 30 years and I never got engineering courses in high school so I think it gives them a jump or head start on learning even the language of the trade,” Henry said.
Henry said it’s even beneficial to students if engineering is not exactly what they want to pursue.
“You start understanding how technical things work and the mind of a technical person so it even benefits you if you decide not to go into engineering specifically,” Henry said.
Henry said that about 73 students participate in the academy of engineering, which also includes field visits, job shadowing, and attended circuit labs at University of New Orleans.
Dr. Emily McLendon, Warren Easton tech coordinator/instructional coach, founded the school’s academy through a grant rewarded by the U.S. Department of Education in 2010.
“We received funds to build an afterschool program with an infusion of STEM activities and in that process we started an afterschool STEM academy and after that when the grant was over we sort of transitioned STEM into the engineering academy,” McLendon said.
McLendon said that the goal for the academy is to live out their vision and the Lenovo Scholar Network is a step in the right direction of doing so.
“Our vision is to become a place that is recognized not only within our schools but within our state and district and nationwide as a quality STEM program,” McLendon said.