This is a guest blog by Kathy Deng, Google China
In 2014, Google China launched the first nationwide App Inventor contest for students from high schools and middle schools. One goal of the contest is to boost CS education among young students. Another goal of the contest is to encourage high school, middle school, and primary school students to learn Computational Thinking by developing mobile applications using MIT App Inventor.
In 2015, the MIT App Inventor team, South China University of Technology, and Guangzhou Education Information Center started working together to bring a stable user experience to teachers and students for app development, which is critical to bring MIT App Inventor and Computational Thinking to the classroom in China.
In the first three years of the contest, 3450+ apps were submitted from 300+ Chinese schools. The 2017 contest has kicked off at http://appjs.gzjkw.net/ (in Chinese). As Prof. Hal Abelson from MIT says, App Inventor by itself is just the tool. The passion, imagination and creativity from the participants really bring the tool alive.
Here are some stories from some of 2016 contest winners:
Ruying HONG, a 11-year-old girl, uses a mobile phone to solve her own problems. She works as a librarian in her school and she found the school computers are quite old and occasionally not working. She created a simple app to help her and has added more and more features to the app as needed.
Qian YAO, the winner of the Grand Prize in the middle school group, is in grade 9. He developed an app to help memorize ancient poetries by using voice recognition and text-to-speech features.
Chenglin YANG is the winner of the Grand Prize in the high school group. Chenglin began with App Inventor but then learned Java by himself during his summer vacation, writing Java code to extend the features in App Inventor. Eventually, the extended features helped him create a 3D game using simple geometric structures, winning the grand prize. Below are the screenshots of his app.
For the first time, in 2016, we had some finalists from the western regions, such as Xinjiang and Sichuan. Ruoyu WANG from Xinjiang travelled for 2-days and 2-nights to Shanghai in order to participate the final onsite competition. He taught himself App Inventor and kept trying different solutions until he developed a good working app.
Over past three years, we have learned that students can make their own mobile phone apps using App Inventor, to solve problems that relate to their life. For example, quoting a middle school student from Shandong province. I am not good at Physics because I feel lab experiments are long and dont connect with my life. Even worse, the physics laws are very hard to grasp. However, learning Physics through app making is very interesting to her. She is able to understand the basic principles of Physics in this process. She learned that her submitted app might not meet her expectations initially, but she can refine the app step by step over time. She still left the competition realizing that she accomplished something.