What is MIT App Inventor?
MIT App Inventor is an innovative beginner's introduction to programming and app creation that transforms the complex language of text-based coding into visual, drag-and-drop building blocks. The simple graphical interface grants even an inexperienced novice the ability to create a basic, fully functional app within an hour or less.
The MIT App Inventor project seeks to democratize software development by empowering all people, especially young people, to transition from being consumers of technology to becoming creators of it.
Google's Mark Friedman and MIT Professor Hal Abelson co-led the development of App Inventor while Hal was on sabbatical at Google in 2009. Other early Google engineer contributors were Sharon Perl, Liz Looney, and Ellen Spertus. App Inventor runs as a web service administered by staff at MIT’s Center for Mobile Learning - a collaboration of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and the MIT Media Lab.
In 2015, the MIT App Inventor community consists of nearly 3 million users representing 195 countries. More than 100,000 active weekly users have built over 7 million android apps! As an open-source tool that seeks to make both programming and app creation accessible to a wide range of audiences, MIT App Inventor has grabbed the attention of:
- Formal and informal educators who have used MIT App Inventor to introduce programming to their Computer Science students, science club members, after-school programs’ attendees, and summer campers. Many educators have also started to use MIT App Inventor to develop apps in support of their own instructional objectives.
- Government and civic employees and volunteers who have harnessed the power of MIT App Inventor to develop custom, often hyper-local apps in response to natural disasters and community-based needs.
- Designers and product managers who have seen the potential that MIT App Inventor has to support the iterative design process via rapid prototyping, testing and iteration.
- Researchers who use MIT App Inventor to create custom apps that can process their data collection and analysis requirements in a wide variety of fields from medical to social.
- Hobbyists and Entrepreneurswho want to quickly turn an idea into an app without the cost or learning curve of more traditional app creation processes.
The MIT App Inventor team has five primary objectives:
- Building capacity - App Inventor diligently strives to expand the compass of formal and informal mobile computing education for adults and youth around the world. We are actively engaged in developing and disseminating resources and training materials to support educators in creating new apps through our program.
- Promoting computer science education - Through our blocks-based programming language, we are committed to promoting an alternative on-ramp to computational thinking education. From a policy perspective, we actively engaged in local and national conversations about standards. From an awareness perspective, we are eager to participate in and support large-scale campaigns reaching new audiences.
- Sustaining and enhancing the tool - We have made a long-term commitment to sustaining and enhancing MIT App Inventor as a cutting-edge free service to users. To this end, we are continuously improving the tool, debugging and enhancing its performance, and adding new features.
- Building enterprise enhancements - We work with public agencies and private corporations to support unique applications by developing custom features of MIT App Inventor in response to partner needs.
- Conducting and supporting community research - MIT undergraduates, graduate students and collaborating institutions are actively engaged in conducting and publishing research while developing, testing and evaluating the use of MIT App Inventor around the world.
We partner with other organizations within and beyond MIT that share our vision including:
- Scheller Teacher Education Program
- MIT Media Lab
- MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL)