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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF Christine Mackin (second from right), works Wednesday with students Karina Batra (from left), Mackenzie Jackson, Saahas Parise and Tanvi Naik on their app design project.

BENTONVILLE -- Given a few days off from classes, some kids went to school anyway this week to work on solving problems through technology.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF Bryles Tucker works Wednesday on an app design with art teacher Craig Ford (right).

Lincoln Junior High School hosted Tata Consultancy Services' three-day mobile application design camp for the second straight fall break, which for Bentonville Schools was Monday through Wednesday. About 40 seventh- and eighth-graders representing each of Bentonville's three junior high schools participated in the camp.

Thousands served

Tata Consultancy Services’ goIT program, like the one held in Bentonville this week, has engaged more than 13,000 students in more than 50 cities and 100 school districts in North America since 2009.

Source: Bentonville Schools

The camp was free for students. Tata, an information technology and business solutions company based in India, paid all expenses.

Christine Mackin, a corporate social responsibility specialist for Tata, ran the camp. The program is about problem-seeking, problem- solving and critical thinking -- just the kind of abilities the company seeks when it's hiring.

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"I feel like if we can get them thinking, and we can get them solving problems, then regardless of what career path they choose, we're going to be in a really good position and we're going to make a difference," Mackin said.

The students were asked to design a mobile application that would improve their community in some way. Students shared their initial ideas, then formed 10 groups based on the similarity of those ideas, Mackin said.

After putting their design concepts on paper and in slide-show form, the groups presented their ideas Wednesday afternoon to a panel of six adult judges, much like they were contestants on the reality television show Shark Tank. The groups had 3 minutes to present their concepts, then answered questions from the judges.

Students had to explain to the judges how their applications were better than actual applications that offer similar services. They were judged on the quality of their presentations and the strength of their concepts.

The first-place prize went to a group of four Fulbright Junior High School students -- Karina Batra, Mackenzie Jackson, Tanvi Naik and Saahas Parise -- who called their application "Helpy Happ." They received $75 gift cards to Best Buy.

The application they envisioned would help people who are looking to donate money or volunteer their time to find worthy causes within their community, simply by typing in their zip code.

Karina said she enjoys computer science and decided to attend the camp to expand her knowledge.

"I feel like if we had more time we could have definitely made it better," Karina said about her group's proposal. "But it was a great learning experience and I had a lot of fun."

Saahas, who said he aspires to work in the information technology industry, agreed.

"Overall it was a very good learning experience," he said.

Second place went to Dominic DeMania and Collin Crandall, whose "Spinny Wheel" application was intended to motivate kids to do good deeds and chores by awarding them points that could be converted into tangible rewards.They received $50 Best Buy gift cards.

As part of the design process, students had to think about more than just the look and functionality of their application.

"If you have a really great app and a really great idea and nobody knows about it, it's going to stay in the app store and it's not going to do anyone any good," Mackin said. "So we talk about, how do you market yourself and how do you market your app. And almost more importantly, it's how do you show up in the world and how do you want others to see you in the world."

Several Bentonville junior high school teachers and Tata employees volunteered their time to this week's program. Third District Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, addressed the group Monday, and representatives from U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton's and John Boozman's offices paid visits as well, Mackin said.

Mackin encouraged students to appreciate the learning process as the camp came to a close Wednesday.

"Continue that learning, continue that growing," she told the students. "Because each opportunity for us to look and find something new and look into our community is an opportunity for us to do something good."

NW News on 10/19/2017

Print Headline: Fall break campers develop app ideas

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