HARTFORD, CT, June 2, 2015 - Students from seven area high schools made a field trip to Trinity College on Thursday, May 28, to show off the mobile phone apps they have spent long hours developing this school year. The students worked under the tutelage of their computer science teachers, all of whom received special training at Trinity through the Mobile Computer Science Principles (CSP) project.
The Mobile CSP project was made possible through a three-year, $926,098 National Science Foundation grant awarded to Ralph Morelli, professor of computer science at Trinity, in conjunction with the Connecticut chapter of the Computer Science Teachers Association.
In his remarks to high school students participating in the second annual Mobile CSP App Expo, Morelli impressed upon them how much their teachers accomplished by completing the intense six-week course and then turning around to teach to their students what they had just learned. “They were more than willing to do this, and they were talented to pull it off,” said Morelli, noting that another 12 teachers will receive the training this summer. “We promised the NSF that by the end of three years we would train 30 teachers … But we will train almost 40 teachers within the three years,” said Morelli.
Several hands shot into the air when Morelli asked, “Is learning to build mobile apps important?” One student answered, “Yes. Twenty years from now, our society will revolve even more around computers.” Another responded, “We can make the phrase ‘there’s an app for that’ even more accurate,” drawing laughter from the crowd.
The importance of preparing for a future that will become increasingly computerized was a recurring theme. The students’ role in paving the way for other students was commended by Elizabeth Dillard, vice president of the Connecticut Computer Science Teachers Association. “Most schools don’t have even an intro to computer science class,” said Dillard. “So when you turn 18, remember to vote for this, to make sure others can have this experience.”
When the 70 participating students took their places at tables set up around the perimeter of the room, they were excited to show their apps to Trinity staff, faculty, and students who were invited to vote for their favorites. The students demonstrated apps inspired by their own or their families’ day-to-day organizational challenges, including apps called “Mama’s Grocery List,” and “Agendall,” as well as fun and educational ones, such as “Quiz of Quiz,” a trivia game, and “Flappy Bron,” a LeBron James-themed game.
When votes were tallied and winners announced just before lunch, a team from West Hartford’s Hall High School received first prize for “Drive Mode,”
a location-aware app intended to minimize distracted driving and increase safety. Christopher Gabow and Joel Margolis, who designed the app, grinned as they accepted their prize, a new tablet computer, and received congratulations from their teacher, Michael Wilkosz, and other students.
The second- and third-place winning apps and teams were, respectively, “Lawmen Territory” (Isabela Roldan and Martha Smith, Jonathan Law High School, Milford), and “Mama’s Grocery List” (Matthew Fusco and Ryan Greenberg, Tolland High School). Both runner-up teams received Best Buy gift certificates. Other schools participating in the Expo were Bloomfield High School, Conard High School (West Hartford), Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy, and University High School of Science and Engineering (Hartford).
Trinity alumna Pauline Lake ’13, teaching consultant for the Mobile CSP project, took the lead in organizing the App Expo. Lake has been a constant source of support for participating teachers the past two years, traveling to their high schools to assist in the classroom as they taught the course. Joining Lake this year to provide support to the teachers was current Trinity student Grace Ryu ’16, who has been an intern with the project and will continue to serve in that role this summer.
A rigorous computer science curriculum based on the College Board's emerging computer science Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science Principles course, the Mobile CSP course has been highlighted by the NSF as an example of a catalyst for change in computer science education. Additional details about Mobile CSP and teacher training taking place this summer can be found at www.mobile-csp.org.
During June, Morelli will travel to Guangzhou, China, along with a group from MIT, and will present on the Mobile CSP project to teachers attending a conference at South China University of Technology. Additionally, through Trinity College’s new TrinityX partnership with edX, one of the world’s leading online course platforms, “Mobile Computing with App Inventor” is now open for enrollment as a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) taught by Morelli. That TrinityX course will begin October 19 as a noncredit course, available for free to students around the world.
Photos by John Atashian. Click here for more photos from the Mobile CSP App Expo.