#SiliconWick: Growing the next generation of Scottish Entrepreneurs with Digital Xtra

If you’ve known us for a while, you’ll definitely have heard of Wick, a town in the Scottish Highlands where Apps for Good-famous teacher Chris Aitken from Wick High School has had more teams win our UK national awards than any other school or learning centre (you can see some of the students’ apps here and here). We think the future of tech isn’t in London or San Francisco, but in Wick – and places like it all over Scotland.

That’s why we’re delighted to announce that we’ve received a grant from Digital Xtra, funded by the Scottish Government Digital Skills Business Excellence Partnership, to help us grow our after-school activities in Scotland.

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Celebrating diversity in tech

In our latest blog Arfah Farooq shares her experiences of working to improve diversity within the tech sect. Arfah leads on the various marketing campaigns to get people excited about Makers Academy, a 12 week coding course! She is passionate about changing lives and empowering more minorities and women into technology. She has set up MuslamicMakers a meetup for Muslims working in tech and is a Youth Trustee of charity Spark+Mettle.  You can follow her on Twitter to keep up to date with her work.

I am a British Muslim Pakistani woman who has been working in technology for 3 years. In this respect, I am unusual –  only 15% of the UK technology workforce are female, and even fewer are Muslim. For the last 2 years I’ve been working at Makers Academy where I’ve met an incredible diverse amount of women from a variety of backgrounds who have learnt to code.

My journey into technology was a bit of an accident and I often found myself suffering imposter syndrome where I feel like I don’t quite belong or I don’t deserve to be there because no one really looked like me or came from the same background. This is why it’s great that Apps for Good is pushing more women to take the role of expert to inspire more girls to consider a career in technology.  By encouraging women to become experts it helps women realise that they are an expert, but also it helps inspire the girls who can look up to these women are role models.

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Afrah Farooq is passionate about encouraging diversity in tech. 

 

Having role models is super important and it was one of the reasons my friend Murtaza and I, set up “Muslamic Makers” – a community for Muslims working in technology. A question we often get asked is why? There’s poor ethnic representation in the tech startup world, there are barriers such as traditional upbringing, lack of opportunity, education and resourcse.  There is also a huge gap in confidence especially as the technology world can be overwhelmingly white and middle class. Me and Murtaza however knew of a handful of Muslims working in and around technology so the mission was simple: to bring them together to create a community and create a safe space for guys & girls who wouldn’t attend the usual tech events due cultural barriers like not drinking alcohol. A simple space space to inspire, network and create future role models to contribute to a much more inclusive technology world.

 

 

Inspired by what I was doing and their own experiences in technology, two amazing Makers Academy graduates, Chuka Ebi and Adil Ali, decided to set up “Black Techies”, a community for black professionals working in technology. As Adil says “I came up with the idea of black techies when I realised that one of my only black role models in tech was Chuka. The first time I met him was at a party during my second week at Makers, and he was working at Fjord. He was someone that I could look up to, and aspire to be like, and he gave me a lot of great advice that night and thereafter.”

Adil continues, “Black Techies was created to make a community of black developers and hopeful developers, so that we could support, inspire, and collaborate with one another. It’s not hard to be different, nor is it a curse (as a lot of people seem to assume), but being alone is extremely difficult, and sometimes very disheartening. Black Techies was made so that black developers could have a place where they weren’t alone.”

My own passion for diversity in technology is continuing to grow stronger! I now curate a Snapchat account celebrating #DiversityInTech. My hope is that the account will be taken over by women, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ, and anyone else who works in technology and wants to celebrate diversity. I’m excited about the Apps for Good’s fellows who will be taking it over at some point! If you’re interested in taking over just send me your details here and be sure to add the account!
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Improving your Apps for Good journey: introducing our new Educator Dashboard

While summer temperatures may have just arrived in the UK, summer holidays are coming to an end and schools across the UK are ready for a new school year. At Apps for Good we’ve been putting  our summer to good use and are proud to reveal our brand new Educator Dashboard!

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Our new Dashboard doesn’t just look sleeker, it’s packed with information, tools, lesson plans, CPD training and more  to help make sure that delivering Apps for Good is as straightforward as possible for teachers. There’s lots to explore, but today we’re giving you an overview of 4 essential features in order to get the most out of the Apps for Good course.

1). Start a Course

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As you make your way through the course content you will see a prompt at the bottom of your screen inviting you to start a course if you have not already done so. Clicking on this will enable you to create a class and start your journey through either the full course or the mini course.

2). Track your Progress

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This new feature at the bottom of each topic page will allow you to mark each module topic as “done” and will thus allow you to keep track of your progress on the course you have selected.

3). Lesson Primers

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These handy documents are designed to work in tandem with the 5 minute lesson plans and will provide you with extra help when planning lessons by defining key terms, offering further reading suggestions and providing example assessment questions.

4). 15 Minute Training and Deeper Learning

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These tools are located in the CPD Training tab on the dashboard. The 15 minute training pages include inspirational videos and informative links which will enable you to teach your students about everything from e-safety to the importance of grit and remaining resilient when challenges arise during the course.

The deeper learning pages will provide you with an in depth look at how to foster creativity in the classroom.

We want to know what you think of our new Dashboard. Got any comments, ideas or suggestions for how we can keep improving the Dashboard? Let us know on education@appsforgood.org.

 

 

Exploring possibilities at SAP

Tasneem is an Apps for Good Fellow from Luton. Last week, Tasneem visited SAP UK for an inspiring Work Experience Day. Here she shares her thoughts:

A day in the life with SAP
I’ve never taken part in a work experience before, and I didn’t expect to any time soon, let alone in a well reputable company in London called SAP. Founded in Germany, 1972, it manufactures software for businesses, tailoring to their needs and helps support services for their customers. This month we got the opportunity to visit the SAP UK office for ourselves and venture into the world of work and see what things are like behind the scenes.

At first, we played a fun game and learnt many interesting facts about SAP. For instance, the company’s customers produce around 72% of the world’s chocolate! We also learned that the company work with McLaren – there was even a cool interactive room in the office with a F1 car and a simulator!

Exploring possibilities with the SAP Internship Programme
Next, we got the chance to meet the latest SAP interns! They were super nice and told us how the application and interview process worked. Extremely valuable information was provided such as their experience, what they have learnt and how crucial time management is.

Solving problems with spaghetti
CpVG7oxXEAAIpOIAfter that session, we were introduced to Design Thinking- a creative and clever way of coming up with solutions to problems. Provided with just 20 sticks of spaghetti, tape, string and a marshmallow, we went ahead in completing the marshmallow challenge: building the highest free standing structure. At first, it was quite challenging as you had to think hard about how sticks that look so fragile can support a marshmallow! It seems unlikely, but with teamwork, determination and your imagination, it was certainly possible.

Trying real world tools
CpVz1CDXgAQoSKkI’m sure you’ve all heard of Green Screen Technology, that provides visual effects and animated backgrounds. Well, SAP had a Virtual Studio that uses it, where we got the opportunity to create a Video CV to take home with us! It was definitely a really unique and special aspect, and the CV will help me in the future when I apply to jobs.

We were also introduced to a software that SAP has designed so that it’s customers can add their own touches to their websites and products. We were taught how to use and prototype an app to to solve a challenge around the Rio Olympics. At the end of the day, we presented our ideas to the SAP Dragons. This was the best part of the day! It was interesting to see how the skills we learned with the Apps for Good course transferred to this challenge, and we got to use all of the problem-solving skills we practiced throughout the day!

Building skills for the future
This day has taught me that with hard work, anything is possible. I’ve also learned that technology has revolutionised dramatically and with the marshmallow challenge, I learned to never give up and to carry on.

I was so happy to get this chance to visit SAP. It was incredibly useful to know just how many positions are available in companies today, and how all these roles work together. This experience and knowledge has helped me to broaden my horizon greatly. I think it’s extremely important that other young people get opportunities like these, so we can understand how to build up the skills that can help them in the future.

Are you interested in getting more from your Apps for Good experience? Join the Fellowship and keep up to date with lots of exciting opportunities. 

Apps for Good nominated for a GamesAid grant – Voting now open!

We are very pleased to announce that Apps for Good has been nominated for a GamesAid grant!

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Between the 15th of August and 5th of September this year, games industry professionals and affiliates will be voting to decide if Apps for Good will receive a GamesAid grant. GamesAid is a UK charitable organisation that seeks to harness the talents, creativity and enthusiasm of games industry professionals to raise money for a number of smaller charities that are working to help children and young people.

Each year GamesAid members come together to select grant recipients from a group of shortlisted charities. Apps for Good has been selected alongside 18 other worthy causes to be in with a chance to receive a GamesAid grant to support our work. Apps for Good has a strong track record of working with the games industry, and the impact that we make through schools is helping to create a pool of talent which can support the work of a thriving global games industry. By opening the eyes of students to the wealth of opportunity in the technology and entrepreneurship fields, it is lighting the path for young people  to move into industries such as gaming while simultaneously helping them to develop the skills, knowledge and opportunity required to succeed in an increasingly tech driven world.

A popular creative direction taken by students studying our course is to create games with a social purpose, for example helping others learn through gaming. Apps for Good Award winners CryptoConnex (2014)  and My World of Atoms (2015) are both excellent examples of fantastic student apps in this area. CryptoConnex was created by a team from Hymers College, Hull to help people learn cryptography and code-breaking. My World of Atoms, the brainchild of brother-sister team Ben and Rebecca Jilks from The Boswells School, Chelmsford, helps students learn about the periodic table through a fun adventure game based on finding and combining elements to complete a collection. With inspiration from Minecraft and Pokemon, Ben and Rebecca won Gold in the Mobile App category at the 2016 Essex Digital awards for their efforts.

Ben and Rebecca Gilks, creators of My World of Atoms

Ben and Rebecca, creators of My World of Atoms

Students from our growing Fellowship Community are already using the skills and experience to pursue careers in gaming. 16 year-old Jashvanth from London is one of our most active Fellows and has taken advantage of what the Fellowship has to offer in order to learn from industry professionals.. Last summer  the skills Jashvanth gained as an Apps for Good student and Fellows helped him secure work experience with a games development company and learn more about the industry.

Jashvanth (left) answers questions on a panel with other Fellows at the 2016 Apps for Good Awards.

Jashvanth (left) answers questions on a panel with other Fellows at the Apps for Good Awards 2016

Ensuring that all of our former students have the opportunities available to them to follow their interests, expand their skills and inspire others is the central goal we are trying to achieve via the Fellowship Community. If we’re lucky enough to receive a GamesAid grant we will use it to focus resources on strengthening the impact that we have on our Fellows. It would allow us to leverage the great connection we have with tech firms and industry professionals, to build a varied and interesting pipeline of activities for students, continue building their skills,  find mentors and gain valuable experience.

If you or someone you know is a games industry professional or affiliate who would like to support us over the coming weeks, go ahead and sign up to GamesAid! A polling card will be sent afterwards via email where you can find more information. Voting closes on September 5th 2016, so stay tuned for more updates over the next few weeks.

Apps for Good reveals opportunities you didn’t even know existed

Tasneem took the Apps for Good course last year as part of a club in her school. Since finishing the course she has joined The Fellowship, where she speaks at events and shares her experience. Below, Tasneem reflects on her Apps for Good journey so far:

Being able to design an app seemed fascinating 

I’ve wanted to do Apps for Good ever since hearing about it last year in my school. I didn’t get the chance to do it last year, but after talking to other students, I had a feeling that I would find it interesting. Being able to design an app seemed pretty fascinating to me.

This year I applied to take the course, and was happy to be selected as a Team Leader! I’ve never taken on leadership role before. I wondered how I would do, who would be in my group, if we’d all get along, and if we’d be able to make decision together. More than anything, I was excited for it to begin.

In the beginning, my group had dissimilar app ideas. Three of our teammates wanted to create an app helping teens with anger issues, and two of us wanted to create an app to support the elderly. At that point, it seemed our best choice was to divide the group and work on the two ideas separately.

We had to do a lot of work

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Tasneem leading her team as they present their Apps for Good idea to a panel of judges.

In February our school held a Dragon’s Den session where we presented to industry experts, school staff and members of the Apps for Good team. To prepare for this, we had to do a lot of work!

We created a slide show, marketing plans and an elevator pitch describing our app features and business model. We also worked on our App Shed prototype. The judges provided excellent feedback, and the session really helped us to prepare for our Apps for Good competition entry.

My favourite part was researching our users. It was challenging to think about how we would target the app to our audience and ensure they get the best use out of it. Making our pitch film was quite frustrating, as it could only last 1 minute and it was difficult to get the timing right.

Sharing Apps for Good with others

This Spring I went with our teacher and four classmates to the Academies Show at ExCel in London, where we spoke about our Apps for Good experience. The show was for teachers looking to bring technology into the classroom; we presented and spoke about how they could bring Apps for Good to their school. We also had a great time wandering around and were given a lot of free merchandise – like a Brite-Dock phone charger. We were the only students at the entire show!

Seeing things in a different light

At the end of the course we didn’t get shortlisted for an award, but I decided to become an Apps for Good Fellow. The Fellowship is for students want to get the most out of Apps for Good. I’m not yet certain about my plans for the future, but I’m interested in technology. I see it as something I may like to get more involved with in the future.

Overall, Apps for Good has helped me to develop my problem-solving skills, and to think about things in a different light. Apps for Good can reveal many more opportunities that you didn’t even know existed. To anyone just starting the course, I’d say you will learn a lot and it will be great!

To discover more opportunities in tech and entrepreneurship, Apps for Good students can join The Fellowship: https://fellowship.appsforgood.org

 

Energy and Excitement at the Apps for Good Awards 2016

A few weeks have passed since this year’s Apps for Good Awards but we still haven’t gotten over the excitement of meeting amazing student teams from across the UK. In our latest blog Apps for Good Expert Claire Unwin, from Atos, looks back at the evening of the Awards and some of the fantastic teams she met.

It’s over three weeks since the Apps for Good Awards took place at the Barbican in London, but I’m still buzzing from the energy and enthusiasm that was generated on that Monday evening when England were still in Euro 2016.

Stepping into the Gallery space at the Barbican centre, I was hit by a wall of noise. When I’ve attended conferences and trade fairs, there’s a subdued mumble in comparison. Here, when I tried to listen to the children promoting their app, some of the younger team members literally had to shout to be heard!

Fifteen finalists each had their own pitch on a stand and the invited guests circulated around the teams in the ‘Marketplace’, discovering the story behind each App. There was a healthy element of competition. This year, as well as the winners chosen by the ‘Dragons’, there would be a winner for People’s Choice. This year hundreds of  app ideas had been submitted to the final selection by schools across the UK who are delivering the Apps for Good course. I was thrilled to see three of the teams that I’d helped in my role as volunteer ‘expert’ had made it to the final.

Each of the finalist teams had to present their ‘pitch’ to the Dragons in the afternoon. There are five categories of awards, all of course with the theme of benefiting people rather than being for profit: Accessibility, Information, Connected Communities, Sustainable Communities and Productivity.

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Team DiPloy from Denbigh present their app

But this is now the fifth year of Apps for Good and not only has the number of entries grown, but the ways in which those involved can be recognised has also grown. This year, the awards ceremony was run by ‘Fellows’ i.e. school children who had been through the Apps for Good programme. There was an award for Expert of the Year, which deservedly went to Sandra Gonzalez, as founder of UX for Change and the person who first introduced me to Apps for Good.The Employability awards recognise the teams who may have done the best market research or the best marketing.

I spoke with the team for Rocket Code, a computer ‘game’ where you are lost in space and have to code a spaceship to get you home. If you want to travel faster in space, you code yourself a booster charger! The team were so passionate about their project, they said they’d be progressing it even if they didn’t win. Other apps I loved were Lillies, for children having to deal with bereavement, who had contacted 100 charities involved in the area as part of their research. Then there was DiPloy which is an app to support people with disabilities get into employment and where the team had gone into partnership with an existing Luton based charity to provide a service to generate CVs and run a job portal. Finally, Changes won the People’s Choice award and is an app for children dealing with going through puberty. All teams had found a problem to be solved, researched the market and were passionate about their project.

Leaving the Barbican, I was reflecting on what I love about Apps for Good? I love that it inspires everyone. I love that it’s such a simple model but with structure and purpose. (It’s effectively an MBA course for 12 year olds!) It’s a course where you learn to research, market, promote, present, pitch, problem solve, design, prototype and even code. I loved that one of the teams I’d helped had been brave enough to abandon their initial idea and were here in the final with a fresh new idea. I love that 50% of team members are girls and I love that nearly 50% of volunteers are women in tech.

If you asked me to take charge of the recent cabinet reshuffle, I’d propose a Minister for Entrepreneurism impose a tax on tech companies to support Apps for Good who are making such a huge contribution to training our next generation of employees!

To close the evening, Debbie Forster, CEO of Apps for Good, stood on stage with the finalists and once the applause died down, said simply “I defy anyone here tonight, not to feel inspired!”

It was a great night and great cause and I look forward to supporting Apps for Good in their sixth year.

Finalists

All the finalist from the Apps for Good Awards 2016