#AFGPoland: Meet the 2017 winners

Chatbot and games ideas win our 2nd showcase in Gdynia

Since 2013 we have been experimenting with international expansion and have run tests and pilots in several countries without talking much about it publicly so far. We will soon share more of our lessons learnt from all this work. To start with we are sharing the work Apps for Good students showcased at events in Poland, Arkansas and Portugal this spring/ summer in a series of three blog posts.

On 18th May I travelled to the second Apps for Good Finals in Gdynia, Poland to see what our students in four local schools had created in the 2016/17 school year. Like last year I had the pleasure to attend with Bob Schukaione of our longest and most passionate Apps for Good Experts and corporate partner (he’s Global Head of Design, Digital identity Solutions at Thomson Reuters) and his teenage son Jackson. In 2015 Bob inspired the Gdynia Women in Technology (a special thanks to Ewa Jaremczuk) within Thomson Reuters Poland and several of their male software developer colleagues to get involved and partner with local schools to bring Apps for Good to Poland. This year Wiktor Schmidt, CEO at Netguru, our amazing platform development partner company joined the judging panel. Being passionate about helping to create a Polish start-up eco-system, Wiktor was keen to see emerging local tech talent on stage.

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In total 17 teams of 14 to 17-year olds got on stage, presented and live demoed the prototypes they had created. In real Apps for Good tradition the problems addressed by these prototypes covered a wide range of areas: from how to do sports, how to cook healthy food, how to learn about diseases your dog might have, how to give first aid support as a kid or how to complete school application forms more effectively. Younger students presented on stage in Polish while most older students presented fluently in English.

Bob and I have done quite a lot of judging over the years with Apps for Good and at many other industry events. As the presentations commenced, our reaction is best summarized by his tweet: jaw dropping.

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After the presentations on stage were complete everyone in the audience was asked to vote for the People’s Choice prize, while we as judges had a hard time deciding on the best teams.

The winning teams picked by the judges were:

3rd place: Segregecko from Zespół Szkół Nr 5 w Gdyni

Created by Bartosz, Jakub, Kacper and Michał this app focused on primary school children and teaches them how best to separate waste so it can be better recycled. It achieves this by four fun mini-games included in the app. These give the practical skills of separating glass, paper and plastics overseen by an adorable gecko mascot that also gives the app part of its name.

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2nd place: You Can Do This from Zespół Szkół Nr 5 w Gdyni

Created by the all girls team of Bogusława, Marta, Monika and Monika ‘You Can Do This’ is a detective game. A crime has happened and you are a suspect and need to give the police an alibi. Each level of the game is a new part of your alibi and if you don’t want to go to prison you have to remember each and every story.

As a healthy person you can choose to play it as if you are blind, colour-blind or deaf. If you have any of these disabilities you finally have a unique game available in Polish you can play. The girls not only demoed it on stage by putting the game into the hands of one of the judges who had been blindfolded but also showed a video of how they had been testing the game in a school with young people who were hard of hearing.

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1st place: ZOE from Zespół Szkół Katolickich w Gdyni

Created by Adrian, Dominik and Maksym in their 2nd year of Apps for Good ZOE (Zone of Open Education) is a Facebook messenger chatbot that helps you to revise faster and in a more effective way for exams, but also acts as your friend.

Zoe aims to change the way students think about school notes. So far she has been fed with all the physics notes the team had collected over the past year and all Polish speaking judges immediately accessed Zoe via Facebook Messenger on their phone to test it. They also showed how Zoe as a chatbot is a much faster user interface for finding information than using an internet browser.

You can see a summary in this video:

Wiktor used Zoe on his phone and was impressed. The next day after the finals when he and I were sitting on the train back to Netguru in Poznan he got a ping on Facebook messenger: Zoe the chatbot was asking him for feedback about his experience so far. He was stunned.

People’s Choice: Under the Eyelids from IX Liceum Ogólnokształcące w Gdyni

Created by Klaudia and Paweł ‘Under the Eyelids’ is a charity action game for teenagers and young adults who want to make the world better by helping children in need, but be entertained at the same time. They created different videos that show level 1 of the game where a boy looks for water in Africa, level 2 is about a boy in a war-torn country:

Built on Unity game engine, Klaudia and Paweł composed their own music, designed their own graphics and wrote the storyline for the different levels, found social media partners and even had launched their own Indiegogo campaign by the time they presented on stage.

However, considering all the amazing entries we also awarded a special prize to one more team that had chosen a topic that I felt really was unique to Poland and could not have come from anywhere else in our network:

Grzybobranie (mushroom foray) created by  from Gimnazjum nr 1 w Gdyni  enables children and their grandparents to get information about wild mushrooms. For context: Foraging wild mushrooms is really a very popular leisure activity many families do together in Poland. And the app aims to address the fact that sometimes grandma or grandpa forget which ones to look out for, so technology in the hands of the grandchildren can help.

After the winning teams had collected their prizes, all participating teams and teachers were honoured on stage as you can see in this photo.

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While our cluster of schools in Poland is still small, this event really highlighted the high-quality work done by our teachers and students in Gdynia. With the winning teams working on chatbots and games it is also pointing us to some of the future technology platforms we should be looking at for future content frameworks.

When asked afterwards what impact they hoped their work could make Klaudia and Paweł responded:

“Our aim is to show that young people can make a difference. We would like to present a game that will change the way you see the world. The major objective for us is to create a game which will deliver a deeper meaning. For us, the authors of the game, the most important thing isn’t the game itself, but the idea “Under the Eyelids” promotes.”  

I don’t think that there is a better way to summarise what we hope young people take away from Apps for Good: that they can make a difference and that technology is just a very powerful tool to help them achieve this bigger mission.