When we held our first event in 2011, we were working from a hunch that a competition would motivate our students and teachers, which has turned out to be true. We’ve learned, however, that the real magic of our events lies in bringing together our students, teachers, volunteers and corporate partners to celebrate what has been achieved, share ideas and encourage our young people to do more – and the connections that grow from there.
Like most things at Apps for Good, our events have continued to evolve, but always with the focus on the impact they have. When you come to this year’s Awards, you’ll see some more changes in how we’re doing things. We wanted to explain what we’ve learned, what our thinking is, and what’s coming next.
Taking student tech creation one step further
Seeing our students’ apps on Google Play or Apple’s App Store is such an incredible moment for us. We can look at that product and see the students’ journey from bright idea to real technology product, knowing about all the hours they have put in to write content or experiment with the UX. They’ll now have a community of users and partners giving them feedback and starting conversations, helping to further students’ problem solving skills and teaching them more about the issue they’ve decided to tackle.
We’ve been working with our competition winners to launch their products on the market since our first competition in 2011. Then, mobile app development was just gathering steam and young people weren’t yet systematically learning programming in schools, so it made sense to pair students with a development agency to help them take their prototype further.
Six years later, things look very different, both in the app development sector and for us, our students and teachers. There are more resources and tools available to build and launch apps. At the same time, while we work with many enthusiastic development agencies, it’s become increasingly difficult for them, with their overheads and infrastructure, to build apps on our charity-sized budgets.
With many years of iterations behind us, our course materials have greatly improved since our launch. Young people are learning more programming in and out of school and the sophistication of students’ prototypes improves every year. We also see a growing enthusiasm from students to get stuck in and take action to create a better future for themselves and their community. Other students tell us that they don’t necessarily want to take their Apps for Good product further, but would love more support to improve a skill they’ve learned or get work experience, something we’ve been able to build on through our Employability Skills Prizes.
This year and going forward, you’ll see that our main category prizes will no longer be solely about pairing students with development agencies, but will have a greater focus on how students can take products further on their own, with mentoring, training and connections to industry through our Fellowship programme. We’ll also continue to recognise the diverse pathways for our students, offering prizes such as work experience, skill development and other opportunities with our partners.
New technologies for good
Apps remain exciting, relevant and accessible to young people, but there are other new technologies that young people want to use to make, play and share. We know that teachers and schools are keen to do more and we want to be there to support them. As our first step, we piloted an Internet of Things for Good course powered by Samsung with 10 fantastic schools. We will be showcasing the results of the pilot – with prototypes created using Micro:bit, Arduino and Raspberry Pi – in a new category at this year’s Awards.
Part of our mission is to help young people build bridges as far and wide as possible and our London event is fantastic for that, bringing young people from all across the UK together with the city’s vibrant tech community. We also want to show our students what’s possible closer to home – that technology is not a means of escape but can be used to help them make a difference in their community and connect them to the exciting communities of tech enthusiasts right across the UK, from Cambridge to Dundee. This year, we held our first regional event in Edinburgh, Scotland, with Digital Xtra, and a number of smaller events across England with our partner QA. Our teachers, students, volunteers and corporate partners all loved them – and so did we. We plan to do more of these in the coming years, bringing together local businesses with schools to help spark connections and highlight local role models.
Supporting students on their journey
Another development you’ll see is one that’s core to who we are: having our students and supporters at the heart of what we do. Like last year, our students will be helping us make the event happen and presenting onstage, along with more of the partners and volunteers who’ve been supporting our students all year.
We hope you’ll join us at this year’s Awards on 20 June to celebrate the incredible achievements of our students and help inspire and support them on their next steps in technology.