Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Fox Lane App Team Stars in County Competition

In early March, six students from Fox Lane High School signed up for the Westchester County App Development Bowl. A competition involving 28 area schools, the intent was to create Apps that could help patients with Alzheimer’s. Winning one category and taking 2nd place in two others, the showing Team Fox Lane put up definitely must be considered unforgettable – and not just because of the prize money, accolades and the sense of accomplishment for helping others.

“Their App is called MemBook,” says Teacher Advisor Jessica Fletcher of the digital scrapbook that users can put together over time.

Acting as a substitute – so to speak – for the damaged nerve endings, MemBook can breach the gaps in memory at the touch of the screen. “They can tag people in the photos or put in a description,” says Fletcher.

Winning the usability award and taking second in the functionality award and the caregiver award, the endeavor began the way the best technology emerges – by putting their brains to work before any tapping of a touch screen. “They did a lot of research,” she says of team members Vian Ambar Agustono, Austin Morretta, Drew Gregory, Sean Sacks, Danny Delannes-Molka and Ben Coleman.

In accordance, the leg work revealed a crucial component that has nothing to do with bits, bytes and motherboards. “People with Alzheimer’s don’t like to be referred to as Alzheimer’s patients so the word cannot be found anywhere on their App,” says Fletcher, a Math and Computer Science teacher.

The selling point aside, each came back with ideas and eventually settled on MemBook. “I thought it was a great idea, and we went from there,” says Fletcher.

As such, the process inherently created a division of labor that had everyone rising to the top. “There was a leader for the coding, a leader for the presentation, a leader of organization, etc,” she said.

Still, the team didn’t succumb to having too many cooks – especially when it came to the main point of contention. Conflicted on whether to include the possibility of pulling posts directly off social media, time constraints of the competition gave them pause.

The team compromised by including with their presentation an addendum that proposed the social media feature. “I thought it was grown up of them,”said Fletcher

Of course, the scope of the project wasn’t the only thing that held them up. In terms of coding and implementation, walls were definitely hit, and as the teacher, Fletcher held her tongue. “They appreciated that I didn’t provide the answers because they were proud of the solutions they came up with,” she says.

Tweaking and adding on throughout, the team met almost every day in Fletcher’s room and kept each other in the loop when Apps should have been the last thing on their minds.

“They’re all on the track team so even while in practice they would talk about the project,” she said.

Prize money now in the bank, the real return will ultimately go to Pace University as part of the conditions of the competition. The team is fine with that because they know their product isn’t necessarily ready for mass consumption. “They were concerned about making this public so the fact that Pace is going to polish it - they are happy about that,” says Fletcher.

Having their name attached to a functioning App can’t be a bad thing either way but the kids don’t seem to be considering their own dive into the market yet, according to Fletcher. “They’re looking forward to what Pace offers next,” she says.

And Pace is probably thinking the same thing about them.  

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