The Examiner

Tech Savvy Students to Apply Knowledge in App Development Bowl

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County Executive Rob Astorino is surrounded by the Westchester Knicks Dancers and members of Hot Cup of Java, the team representing Pleasantville High School in the county's first-ever Westchester Smart Mobile App Development Bowl.
County Executive Rob Astorino is surrounded by the Westchester Knicks Dancers and members of Hot Cup of Java, the team representing Pleasantville High School in the county’s first-ever Westchester Smart Mobile App Development Bowl.

A marching band and cheerleaders stormed the court at the Westchester County Center on Friday afternoon, but instead of entering the venue for a basketball game the fanfare was celebrating the launch of a new academic challenge.

Friday marked the kickoff of the first-ever Westchester Smart Mobile App Development Bowl, which challenges students across the county and throughout the metropolitan area to use technology to find solutions for problems facing today’s society.

“What’s so encouraging is that standing here, surrounded by this group [of students], you see how much human potential we have to address all our needs and challenges and all of you have the power to change the world with technology or change the technology that exists today,” said County Executive Rob Astorino.

The goal of the inaugural event is to develop an android or iPhone application that will help people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia manage their symptoms.

Exceeding Astorino’s expectations for the initiative, 50 teams from high schools and colleges across Westchester, Rockland, New York City, Connecticut and Long Island have signed up to compete. Winners receive cash prizes and opportunities for paid internships. Local high schools involved in the competition include Byram Hills, Fox Lane, Horace Greeley and Pleasantville.

“The fact that we have 50 schools from three states is phenomenal,” Astorino said. “We’ve got so many different minds now working on developing an app, which could literally change a life and a family’s life in regards to Alzheimer’s or dementia, so this is a wonderful thing.”

The Mobile App Development Bowl is sponsored by the county and Pace University’s Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems. Senior Vice President and COO of Pace University’s Westchester campus, Bill McGrath, said the focus was likely chosen because most people know someone who suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Also, people suffering from those ailments represent an underserved population, McGrath said. Therefore, there is a gap in the market for tools and technology to help those people, which can be addressed by the work of these students.

McGrath noted that the competition will provide local students with a practical and more hands-on approach to technology than they would ever be able to experience in a classroom, where lessons are often based on theoretical problems.

“They’re going to be able to see the outcome of their work truly help people who are a vulnerable population, so it’s gratifying but it’s like having a real job instead of being in a classroom,” he said.

Virginia Nalbandian, an AP computer science teacher at Pleasantville High School and coach of the school’s Mobile App Development Bowl team, echoed those sentiments. She said while all of the students on her team, which is comprised of youngsters who are either current or former students of one of her classes, already have a love of technology, this experience will show them how they can apply their classroom knowledge outside school.

“I think being part of this contest gives them an opportunity to actually see how they can use java or any programming language in the real world so it’s a great application and it’s a great cause,” she said.

Nalbandian noted that her members of her team, Hot Cup of Java, have not settled on an idea for the app they will ultimately submit, but said that she and the students will be working hard over the next few weeks on the project.

The winners of the Westchester Smart Mobile App Development Bowl will be announced by a panel of judges on Apr. 17.

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