Gaithersburg middle schoolers make apps of their own -- Gazette.Net


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This story was corrected on Dec. 28, 2012. An explanation follows.

Middle school students at Lakelands Park are learning there’s not always an app for that — but they can make their own.

In an afterschool “App Club,” Lakelands Park Middle School students are getting skilled in RSS feeds, YouTube channels and how to blog. And they are walking away from their class with their own app, some of which are available through the Apple or Android stores.

Sixth-grader Priyanka Ravi’s new app is about a bit of old technology.

“I’m a book person, I really like books,” she said, browsing through her “Reader’s Corner” app.

Priyanka’s app lists top sellers from Amazon, Barnes and Noble’s bookstores and a few novels she’s picked herself, including James Patterson’s science fiction series, “Maximum Ride.”

Priyanka, a Gaithersburg resident, and her classmates use the web-based program AppMakr to create their apps. Eleven students are led through the process every Tuesday afternoon. The class is offered in the fall and spring semesters. Students finished their apps during the class’s last session on Dec. 18.

Leading the students is Joshua Chernikoff, president of Flex Academies, a company that partners with Lakelands Park’s Parent Teacher Student Association to provide the afterschool class for a fee.

The students “walk in the first day and they’re ready to make an app,” Chernikoff said. Though they come into class with different computer skill levels, most students in the App Club already have iPhones or Android phones.

The hands-on work doesn’t start until the fourth week, after the students lay out a plan for their app and learn some of the basics about blogs and aggregators.

Then, the students each pick a theme. Each of the apps “have to have an individual kind of touch on them,” Chernikoff said.

Sixth-grader Sarah Di, 11, made her app about endangered species. Her favorite animal is the giant panda.

“I found out they are endangered, and I was sad,” she said. Her app incorporates feeds from “The Guardian” and animal preservation blogs. Different tabs on her app reveal YouTube videos and news about endangered species around the world.

The students create the apps both for their own use and so that they can share them with their friends, Chernikoff said. Though the Apple Store may not accept all their apps, the Android store is slightly more lenient. A few apps designed by students who took the class’s previous sessions are now public.

But even if the apps don’t make it into a store, the main idea of the club is to teach project management, Chernikoff said.

“We sell it to the parents as the most marketable skill in this economy,” he said.

scarignan@gazette.net

Editor’s note: The original version of the story offered a different description of Flex Academies.