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Cottonwood Heights Journal

eDebate app design wins Best of State in Verizon’s app challenge

Mar 27, 2017 11:31AM ● By Rubina Halwani

eDebate team from Olympus Junior High. (eDebate Video/Olympus)

By: Rubina Halwani | [email protected]
Seventh-grade students from the debate team at Olympus Junior High School entered the Verizon App Challenge in fall of 2016. In Jan. 2017, the team won Best in State for their proposed app, “eDebate.” The app surpassed 800 entries from Utah.
The eDebate team members were Ben, Tate, Ryan, Benj and Madi.
For winning Best of State, the team “will receive a $5,000 award from the Verizon Foundation for their school and tablets for each student team member,” said a Verizon spokesperson.
The contest website posted video submissions from each Best of State entry across the U.S. The description for the Olympus entry states: “eDebate takes debating to the 21st century. Your entire case, along with timers, sharing, video and virtual debate cards, is right at your fingertips. The eDebate app would allow debaters to create a digital version of debate cards.”
For a month-long voting period, the public was allowed to vote for their favorite app on the contest website. Although the team did not win, eDebate acquired 220 votes. The school’s entry competed against 1800 entries nationwide.
“This is the fifth year for the app challenge,” a Verizon spokesperson said. “The Fan Favorite component is a new addition to the competition. Judges chose the Best in Region and Best in the Nation winners, but allowed this new Fan Favorite category for people across the country to select a winning entry as well.”
Spurgeon explained the motivation behind the app challenge.
“Verizon Innovative Learning, the education initiative of the Verizon Foundation, created the annual app challenge in partnership with the Technology Student Association, and in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab, to spark greater student interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and provide hands-on learning experiences,” said a Verizon spokesperson.
She continued, “As the job market shifts due to the rapid progression of technological advances, it’s clear we need to do more to spark greater student interest and proficiency in technology, and give them project-based learning opportunities.”
High school students from Jordan Applied Technology Center in West Jordan were also winners in the Best of State round for their entry, “Pocket Closet.” They, too, will be awarded the same prize. The proposed app would help people with visual impairments better manage their wardrobe. During the Fan Favorite round, Pocket Closet received 971 votes in the national round.
Schools first hear about the app challenge from Verizon in early fall.
“Verizon reaches out to the advisors of previous teams to remind them that the app challenge is opening again soon. They also send the media alert to public schools to increase awareness,” a Verizon spokesperson said. “Schools also find out on the web, word of mouth, through news coverage and social media, etc.”
To participate in the app challenge, teams have to submit an 800-word essay stating the problem, proposed app solution, unique qualities and features of the design. A three-minute video is also required for submission.
“The Best in Nation and Fan Favorite winners will receive additional prizes for their organizations and schools and will see their app ideas come to life to become real, working smartphone apps that will be made available for download,” a Verizon spokesperson said. Verizon works with the teams and MIT App Inventor Master Trainers to develop the product.
The Fan Favorite and Best in Nation team will present their completed apps at the annual Technology Student Association Conference in June in Orlando, courtesy of Verizon Innovative Learning, the education initiative of the Verizon Foundation. The apps will also be available for download at the Google Play Store.
“We’ve seen thousands of students use technology and work together to create app concepts that are addressing societal issues facing their schools and communities. By providing these kids with technology, role models and exposure to STEM-related careers, we can help them to achieve a brighter future,” said a Verizon spokesperson.
To view the video presentations or learn more about the annual competition, visit