Silver Spring students in national mobile app contest

Devendra Ravi Chandan and Erick Ronquillo are working on a digital app to track people’s sleep cycles. Iko Esemoto is developing one to help students decide on a career field.

They are among 34 students at Springbrook High in Silver Spring participating in a competition against nine other schools across the country to develop and market the most innovative mobile applications.

“People will benefit from our app because they will wake up feeling energized and ready to take on the day,” Chandan said.

The app will help people keep track of their sleep cycles, as it recommends a time for users to fall asleep and wake up, he said. Esemoto’s app involves interactive games that help players understand more about what certain jobs are like.

Another group of seniors is developing a GPS app in which students and parents can track school buses.

Students have until March to develop their apps. An online national competition is slated to start in April. The apps judged to be the most innovative and their student creators will be highlighted at NAF Next, the National Academy Foundation’s signature annual conference next July in Anaheim, Calif.

Computer and electronics giant Lenovo and the educational nonprofit National Academy Foundation are spearheading the competitive program, which involves a service by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is an offshoot of a 2012 pilot in which high school students from five schools in North Carolina, Connecticut, New York, California and Texas created apps. Some of those apps are now available on Google Play.

Students also are working on a business plan to market the apps. Springbrook has an obligation to work on the app-developing program for three years, so juniors and sophomores will get chances to participate in the next couple years, said Fatimzahra El Khaldi. The computer science teacher at Springbrook helped get the school’s Academy of Information Technology accepted into the intensive months-long program called the Lenovo Scholar Network.

“After three years, we are free to choose another program or to keep developing apps in this one,” El Khaldi said.

Lenovo is providing the students with ThinkPad laptop computers and Yoga tablets. In late November, Springbrook welcomed representatives from Lenovo, the NAF and other groups to mark the start of the Lenovo program.

NAF academies are formed in schools to help boost students’ interest in science, math, engineering and technological subjects. There are more than 500 academies nationwide, including technology academies at Springbrook, Wheaton High, Wootton High in Rockville and Gaithersburg High. There are others in finance, engineering and other fields.

Tech professionals in the field volunteer and act as mentors in the classrooms. In 2013, some 96 percent of seniors in the academies nationwide graduated from high school, according to the foundation.

At Springbrook, students in the Academy of Information Technology can take courses in computer applications, computer assisted drafting, computer maintenance, digital art, programming, and web design, among others. The students plan a career in a technology field.

Chandan plans to major in computer engineering or information systems and Ronquillo in computer science or information systems. Esemoto wants to get a master’s degree in computer engineering and teach children in Africa.

Springbrook’s information technology academy is associated with the Montgomery County Student Foundations Office, a public-private partnership involving local businesses and the county school district that provides vocational education opportunities for students. While taking classes, students participate in paid internships their junior and senior years with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, NASA and other employers.

Friendship Collegiate Academy, a public charter high school in Washington, D.C., is the only other school in the region in the Lenovo competition. Others are in Florida, Connecticut, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Nevada and California.

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