Mobile Apps for Hartford Student Interns Debut New App at Connecticut Science Center

Trinity College Instructors Worked with Students from Hartford Schools to Create ‘Butterfly Spy’

​Hartford, Connecticut, August 18, 2017 – High school student interns from Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy and Pathways Academy of Technology and Design in East Hartford recently debuted a new mobile phone application they developed to help young children explore the new “Butterfly Encounter” exhibit at the Connecticut Science Center.

The student interns in the Mobile Apps for Hartford program worked alongside instructors from Trinity College this summer to create the “Butterfly Spy” app, which allows children in kindergarten through second grade to record their observations of live butterflies in action and collect data that a teacher can access online. Tablets are used to digitally tally butterfly actions including flying, resting, eating, and chasing. The hands-on, interactive app provides a way to engage with the exhibit and encourages young students to build an appreciation for gathering and analyzing data as part of a STEM education program.

The Mobile Apps for Hartford Program is an innovative collaboration between the City of Hartford and Trinity College. Also supported by Mobile Computer Science Principles and Connecticut Computer Science Teachers Association, it is a summer employment opportunity that focuses on high school students building mobile applications for Hartford’s city departments and local nonprofit provider agencies. 

During their final presentation at the Connecticut Science Center on August 4, the five student interns provided their families and friends with an overview of the app development process, which involved client meetings, brainstorming, coding, debugging, and testing. The students then hosted a live demonstration of the app inside the “Butterfly Encounter,” a lush tropical habitat with hundreds of butterflies moving freely inside the unique, custom-designed greenhouse.

Lyn Wojcik, educator at the Connecticut Science Center, said that with the app, the center was looking for a new way to have young students get involved with the exhibit. “Butterfly Spy” will keep children engaged in observing what the butterflies are doing, thinking about the needs of the butterflies, and examining patterns. “I think the kids are really going to enjoy the app,” Wojcik said during the presentation.

Mobile Apps for Hartford Program Coordinator Pauline Lake ’13 (left) and undergraduate mentor and lead instructor Selina Ortiz ’19 (center) presented certificates to students from Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy and Pathways Academy of Technology and Design after they debuted their app at the Connecticut Science Center.
As the undergraduate mentor and lead instructor for Mobile Apps for Hartford, Selina Ortiz ’19, a computer science and legal studies major at Trinity, worked closely with the high school student interns. “They showed real commitment and dedication,” Ortiz said. The students who designed the app were Mariah Boria, Jack Carson, and Lola Kovalski from HMTCA and Nicholas DiRamio and Robert Morrison from Pathways. Their student mentor was Tori T., a Pathways student who had previously completed the Mobile Apps program.

During their summer program, the students also completed small challenges, listened to guest speakers, and took part in career and college workshops. As they learned to work collaboratively and professionally, they were introduced to new fields of interest within computer science that they may pursue in college and in their careers. Mobile Apps for Hartford Program Coordinator Pauline Lake ’13 told them, “It’s up to you to take advantage of the opportunities that come to you.”

Trinity College Professor of Computer Science, Emeritus, Ralph Morelli and Connecticut Computer Science Teachers Association President Chinma Uche, who are co-directors of the Mobile Computer Science Principles Project, spoke to the students about the importance of computer science. “Computer science is all around us today,” Morelli said. “If you know nothing about computers, you won’t be able to make good decisions as citizens.”

Uche added, “If you continue this, it will open more doors of opportunity.” She concluded her remarks by asking students and their parents to advocate for more computer science course offerings and teacher certifications.

Written by Andrew J. Concatelli

Photos and video by Helder Mira