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Helmut Schmidt, Published April 02 2013

West Fargo students’ app idea wins Verizon contest

WEST FARGO – Looking for a way to toss your stuff without sending it to the landfill?

There soon will be an app for that – thanks to nine sixth-graders at the West Fargo STEM Center.

The students at the center for science, technology, engineering and math are one of 10 teams from schools around the nation whose app concepts won this year’s Verizon Innovative App Challenge.

The STEM Center team will get help building their “Recycle Bin” app from experts at Verizon Wireless and the Media Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“I think it’s amazing,” Superintendent David Flowers said Tuesday at an awards ceremony at the STEM Center.

“I can’t imagine creating something like that or presenting it with such poise,” he said after a presentation of the concept by the group’s spokesmen, Troy Mullenberg and Joram Stith.

Other team members are Hunter Koehmstedt, Jacob Pfeifer, Zach Milbrandt, Jaden Hilkemann, Nicole Niteka, Seralyn Blake and Lucas Krause.

Math teacher Gretchen Peterson and student teacher Britta Olson guided their sixth-graders through the brainstorming, research and early design process.

“They’re just so impressive,” Peterson said of the winning team. “All nine of them want to go into engineering.”

Hilkemann said she looks forward to learning about how to create the app.

“I’ve never really made an app before,” she said.

“I think it will be a challenge, but I think a fun opportunity to learn,” Mullenberg said, before heading off for some cake and orange soda.

“I think it’s amazing that we got to take part and won,” Stith said, vowing to take part in the challenge again next year.

STEM Center Principal Michelle Weber said sometimes all you need to do with students is show them a problem then “get out of the way.”

“They took it and ran with it, and the results are here,” Weber said.

In addition to getting help with their apps, winning the contest earned each team $10,000 for their schools. All team members get a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, too, Verizon announced.

More than 470 student teams from across the country took part in the challenge.

Winning apps are supposed to address a need or problem in the students’ schools or communities. Other app designs are to make it easier for students with disabilities to take notes in class, or to identify invasive plant species in lakes.

Flowers said the award is another indicator that West Fargo’s emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math is paying off.

“We’re on the right track,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583