Team ZOE visit to Netguru, Poland

Dominik, Adrian and Maksym created ZOE – a friendly Facebook messenger bot  which helps young Polish people to revise more effectively for physics classes in school.  Since winning the first prize at the 2nd Apps for Good Showcase in Gdynia in May 2017  the team have continued to work on ZOE. During the summer holidays they got invited by our development partner Netguru in Poznan to visit their office and engage with the Netguru team to take their idea further.  In this blog they tell us about the experience.

In August we travelled to the headquarters of Netguru in Poznan. When we arrived we were welcomed by Greta who was with us the whole time. She was very helpful and friendly. At the beginning of the visit we presented our project in front of Netguru’s employees. We were slightly stressed about our presentation but while we were talking we forgot about our nerves.

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After the presentation we sat down and started talking about ZOE. Netguru’s staff gave us a lot of helpful advice, for example to create a roadmap and to better define our goals:

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Later we went for a guided tour of Netguru’s office; it has really nicely decorated rooms! We were so excited about the “chilling room” where you can find game consoles and instruments like a guitar.

Next we had a video-call with Radek, Netguru’s head of growth. He gave us advice about soft skills and he described to us many of Netguru’s current projects. After lunch we had a mentoring session with Wojtek and Svetlana. Wojtek is a very experienced developer and knows a lot about programming and start-ups. Svetlana told us more about the job of a project manager. At the end of our visit Matthew told us about the recruitment process at Netguru.

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Huge thanks to the Netguru team for spending so much time with us! It was an interesting experience and if we can, we definitely want to work at a place like Netguru in the future.

Team ZOE  – Dominik, Adrian and Maksym

Idea Generation Day with Cogeco Peer 1

Student’s kick off their Apps for Good course with a day of workshops hosted by Cogeco Peer1.

Last week students from Ditcham Park and St George’s Catholic School, who have just begun their Apps for Good journey, were lucky enough to be invited to the Cogeco Peer 1 offices for a day of inspirational workshops run by their staff.

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“The Apps for Good trip was a lot of fun and it helped me learn a lot” – Luke

The students were all very excited on arrival as the offices aren’t the average workspace! There are indoor gardens, a shipwreck, space hoppers, mini golf and even a slide! The day kick started with some brain storming as the students thought about a problem they were keen to solve using tech. It was great to listen to such a variety of ideas and for an initial brainstorm all the ideas were very sophisticated.

Once the students had decided on one idea they wanted to work on they were split into two workshops to learn how to sell and market their idea and how they could assess the technical feasibility of the idea.

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The sales experts at Cogeco Peer 1 demonstrated, using real examples, the different ways apps could make money. Then they explained how to define the target market before thinking about marketing collateral and where the app would be visible. It was interactive and a fun way to learn some new business skills!

Following a bit more work on the ideas after lunch it was time to pitch! Everyone got the chance to pitch their idea and explain the idea process and what problem the app would solve. There was a wide variety of app ideas from learning history through games to sending money directly to charity in a crisis. Everyone got some feedback from the experts and the floor was open for questions. The questions were very constructive as the teams could think about potential challenges that hadn’t occurred to them previously.

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“The trip was interesting to learn ways of creating mobile apps” – Connor

After a full tour around the office and meeting a few other employees it was time to go home after a constructive and exciting day. Alain, computer science teacher at St George’s, left saying “the students were engaged from start to finish, the location and venue were conducive to learning and gave pupils a real experience of work in the IT industry.” It was a productive day for all and the students all left very inspired to continue with the Apps for Good course and with a much better understanding about what the day in the life of an employee at a big tech company is like. 

We look forward to seeing the fully fledged ideas once everyone has completed the course!

Want to know more about The Expert programme?

It is an opportunity for student teams delivering the Apps for Good course to get advice and mentoring from real world Experts from business and tech. Apps for Good Experts get the chance to hear the students app ideas, share their skills and knowledge and get loads of energy, inspiration and new perspectives in return!

Experts meet with the students remotely over Google Hangout or Skype in one hour sessions and help them move from problem to prototype in a wide range of areas of expertise mapped to the course, including idea screening, technical and data feasibility through to marketing, prototyping and coding.

In 2016/17, Expert sessions were delivered to over 3200 students across the UK through our Apps for Good dashboard.  

https://www.appsforgood.org/public/get-involved/become-an-expert

Learning about Machine Learning

Across a series of blogs, with thanks to research from Apps for Good Volunteer Researcher Federica Luciolli*, we will explore some of the important topics surrounding the artificial intelligence and machine learning discourse. These will include the ML and AI education landscape and how this technology can be used for good.

Later this year Apps for Good, in collaboration with SAP, will implement machine learning resources on our platform. These will be targeted to Fellows, teachers and older students. The resources will enable an understanding of the topic and the potential problems posed by new technologies.

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Defining Artificial Intelligence

The phrase artificial intelligence (AI) is generally used to refer to any sort of machine learning program. But some people prefer to reserve the phrase AI for the narrowly defined thing that can replicate many aspects of human intelligence, and become an entity in its own right. We haven’t reached that stage, yet. However, according to predictions by Zuckerberg, Machine learning-powered artificial intelligence will match and exceed human capabilities in the areas of computer vision and speech recognition within five to 10 years.

Defining Machine Learning

At its most basic level, machine learning refers to any type of computer program that can “learn” by itself without having to be explicitly programmed by a human.

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Today, machine learning is a widely used term which encompasses many types of programmes which are present across big data analytics and data mining. Machine learning algorithms are currently used to power the most predictive programs; spam filters, product recommenders, and fraud detectors.

Data scientists can program machine learning algorithms using a range of technologies and languages, including Java, Python and Scala, amongst others. They can also use pre-built machine learning frameworks to accelerate the process.

Machine learning can be categorised into three types: supervised, unsupervised or reinforcement learning. This is essentially the way the machine learns; whether the data scientist is involved in teaching the algorithm about what conclusions to draw.

The below diagram shows the basic differences between the three:

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Source

The Evolution of AI

Artificial Intelligence has been around since the 1950s, and has gone through many cycles. It is currently going through a new peak and is here to stay.

There are two key factors enabling the present growth of AI:

  • Unlimited access to computing power: Public cloud computing was estimated to reach almost US$70 billion in 2015 worldwide; data storage has also become abundant.
  • Growth in big data: Global data has seen a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 50 percent since 2010 as more of the devices around us have become connected. This growth of data is constantly contributing to improvements in AI.

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Today, AI works in the following ways:

  • Automated intelligence: Automation of manual/cognitive and routine/non routine tasks
  • Assisted intelligence: Helping people to perform tasks faster and better (e.g. in cars the GPS navigation program that offers directions to drivers and adjusts to road conditions)
  • Augmented intelligence: Helping people to make better decisions (e.g. the combination of programs that organise cars in ride-sharing services enabling businesses that could not otherwise exist)
  • Autonomous intelligence: Automating decision making processes without human intervention. (e.g. self-driving vehicles)

What will be the economic impact of AI?

Currently London is Europe’s largest AI start-up hub. Below is detail of the best funded European AI companies and the industry they serve:

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Source

According to PwC research carried out for this report, global GDP could be up to 14% higher in 2030 as a result of AI. This is the equivalent of an additional $15.7 trillion. Thus making it the biggest commercial opportunity in today’s fast changing economy.

The economic impact of AI will be driven by:

  • Productivity gains from businesses automating processes (including use of robots and autonomous vehicles)
  • Productivity gains from businesses augmenting their existing labour force with AI technologies (assisted and augmented intelligence)
  • Increased consumer demand resulting from the availability of personalised and/or higher-quality AI-enhanced products and services

 The greatest gains from AI are likely to be in China (boost of up to 26% GDP in 2030) and North America (potential 14% boost).

The biggest sector gains will be in retail, financial services and healthcare as AI increases productivity, product quality and consumption.

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The AI Education Landscape

Education is often seen as an area with big AI promise, in particular regarding the personalisation potential of education.

Machine learning technology means acquiring a new set of skills; particularly the ability to successfully interact with the machine. This will be key for the machine to learn from the human and vice versa. The skills required by jobs in AI are different to the traditional computer scientist for whom demand will already outstrip supply by 50% in 2018.

Upskilling employees and students is of utmost importance to keep up with the demand for these in specialised skills. Educational institutions are already starting to offer some AI training:

There is still a long way to go in order to ensure the skills gap is not as huge as 50% supply versus demand. Teachers also require the resources (which are not necessarily available in the traditional education model) in order to effectively train the next generation of machine learning engineers and researchers.

The below chart maps some of the education tools currently available in the field and the age ranges it is available for.

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What is to be expected from AI in the near future?

According to the document produced following this year’s AI for good global summit here are some predictions for AI use in 2018:

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AI for Good

The summit explored the huge potential AI has to solve some of the world’s most complex problems. A broad range of examples of AI for good, especially in agriculture and health, exist already. These positive uses for AI however don’t come without their obstacles and challenges. Subject matters which cause anxiety around AI include; the ethical issues, security risks and the disruptive impact of AI on employment (more than 60% of jobs will be fully automated in the near future). We will explore this in much more detail in the next blog post in the artificial intelligence and machine learning series.

*Federica is a freelance consultant specialising in market research, partnership strategy and intrapreneurship. She is passionate about enabling organisations to innovate and collaborate to grow their social impact. In her 10-years experience she has worked with a broad range of organisations, from start-ups to multinationals, in the private sector and social sector.

Meet the Female Fellows

With the announcement that Apps for Good Fellows Holly and Ellora have been nominated for the 2017 Women of the Future Awards we wanted to put the spotlight on some of the great work our female Fellows have been doing since they finished the Apps for Good course and what their plans for the future are.

Meet Holly

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Holly is a mathematician and co-founder of the app CryptoConnex. She entered the idea into our annual Awards  in 2014 and won the category to have the app professionally developed. Having noticed the ever-increasing popularity of mobile games, Holly and her teammates decided to create a gamified app to effectively educate and raise awareness about cryptography.

Why Holly inspires us

Whilst at school Holly was a mentor to younger students, encouraging them to learn cryptography. Two of the three teams she mentored reached top 40 in a national competition with over a thousand teams competing this year. Alongside this she helped out two local primary schools with extra-curricular lunchtime maths clubs. On top of this Holly was the orchestra section leader, where she played the double bass. She never stops inspiring her peers and acting as a role model for younger students to look up to!

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What’s next?

Since winning in the national Apps for Good competition Holly is a regular speaker and attendee at our events. She advises on strategies for the future of the organisation, and helps with ideas for mentoring initiatives. Holly actively encourages younger students to join the Apps for Good alumni programme, of which she is a dedicated member. She recently took part in a ‘Diversity Hack Day’, where she discussed diversity in technology, and what more can be done to promote inclusivity. She makes sure her voice is heard on getting girls involved in tech and for that we applaud her greatly! Following her outstanding  A-level results Holly will start her Maths degree this Autumn. 

 

Meet Ellora

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Ellora has a passion for coding and is the co-founder and Managing Director of her company Envirocache Ltd. In September 2015 Ellora pitched  at the Outbox Incubator Demo Day and won ‘Outstanding Design’ for her startup.  As a prize her and her co-founder received seed funding.

Why she inspires us

Despite not being shortlisted as a finalist in the Awards, in June 2016 Ellora was awarded Fellow of the Year, for her continued work developing her app and using her experiences to encourage others, especially girls, to try computing and show that being young doesn’t mean you can’t be ambitious.  The award ‘celebrates former Apps for Good students who have demonstrated outstanding commitment to furthering their skills, inspiring other young people and creating positive change in the world through technology.’

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What’s next?

Most recently Ellora has been selected as a finalist in the European Satellite Navigation Competition. If successful her app will win a package of support and funding which will help her to realise the dream. The entry was picked as just one of seven finalists from 250 entries (many of the other entries came from businesses which are already trading, headed up by space technologists and astro-physicists with years of experience in industry.) The UK finals took place in the UK Space Agency.

There are many career prospects in computing which Ellora is interested in, from Teaching to Ethical Hacking. She has demonstrated great tenacity (despite not making the Apps for Good finals with her app idea she has gone on to develop it anyway) she will always push herself and be a role model for others.

Ellora continues with her work inspiring younger students to become involved in technology through her work with the Apps for Good fellowship. She speaks at Apps for Good events and offers support and advice to those who have an interest in what she has achieved.

Meet Katie

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Katie is the founder and creator of the app I’m Okay which is a support app for teenagers questioning their sexuality and gender. She came up with the idea after realising the limited availability of resources on the subject despite this being a common experience for many teenagers. The free app can be used to read stories from people who have had similar experiences, understand definitions of LGTBQ terminology and access other resources. The main aim of the app is to help young people see that they’re not alone and get the answers and information they need. Katie and her school friends developed the app after pitching their idea to a judge of experts at the Apps for Good national competition.

Why she inspires us

Since the launch, Katie has been working independently to challenge stereotypes in tech and encourage more girls to follow a career path in technology. She has spoken at events, such as Oxfam’s Women in IT Day, to show that girls can be just as successful in the digital world as boys. She enjoys sharing her love of computing, and showing others it should not be seen as nerdy, but it’s seen as something fun and creative which girls should also try.

In her own words: ‘Only 19% of Computer Science graduates are female in the UK with 9% of the STEM workforce being female in the UK. Consider that these are the fastest growing, highest paying, most in-demand jobs in the UK and if current trends continue, only one out of ten of those jobs will be filled by women. We need to raise a new generation of women in technology who think creatively and who aren’t afraid to take risks and impact the world around them. The difficulty in attracting women into the tech industry is down to a combination of things, including the lack of STEM role models for girls. It’s really important for girls to be actively encouraged, and shown that computing is something that is ‘for’ them. There’s nothing there to actually stop girls from taking computing. It’s all about us knowing about the opportunity and feeling confident to take it. It’s important to know that it has been done, and it can be done.

Tech influences absolutely everything, and it is the future of every single industry. The future depends on technology, and on people with different points of view who aren’t afraid to try new things.’
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What’s next?

In the future Katie wants to continue her work as a role model for girls in tech. “I really enjoy sharing my love of computing, and showing others how much fun it is. I like encouraging other girls to give it a try. I try to make sure it’s not just seen as this nerdy thing, but it’s seen as something fun and creative. I hope that when I go through my journey, I will become a role model for other girls in the future. I have also attended many Apps for Good events where I have spoken about my experience as well as taking the opportunity to speak to other tech role models. I am one of this year’s Code First: Girls “Ones to watch” and I plan on speaking at many more events in the future to help get my voice heard.’

We’d like to wish the girls good luck with their award nominations and look forward to what’s next. 

If you would like to find out more about joining the Fellowship and the opportunities available email fellows@appsforgood.org.

Tomorrow’s inclusive tech sector starts in the classroom

It seems the issue of diversity in tech is never far from the headlines. In light of this year’s A-level results where only 9.8% of those taking computing were girls and the recent leak of a report from a Silicon Valley employee trying to make excuses for the lack of diversity in the industry; the imbalance in the demographic of those employed in tech jobs is an important issue. We are continually aiming to tackle this through our work. Two of the most deprived boroughs in the UK are the hosts to Silicon Roundabout which thousands of established tech companies and startups also call their home. What are we doing to ensure that those who are right on the doorstep of the industry are not left behind?

This year, in line with our mission, and with additional support from Comic Relief  we have been able to widen our reach even further to encourage those who may not necessarily be interested in tech to learn more about the industry and equip them with the skills which are in huge demand. 

What does gender diversity in the tech industry look like?

Just 17% of the workforce is female. With only 5% of leadership positions in technology held by women, the female population is severely underrepresented.

According to a report by Girls Who Code 74% of young girls express an interest in STEM subjects. Why is this not reflective of the number of women who end up having a profession involving these subjects? There are a number of issues which contribute to this deficit which   we explored in our blog on Girls in Tech . We wanted to investigate further what else can be done to continue a diverse group of students’ engagement with tech.

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Ellora & Mari-Ann from Envirocache pitching as finalists in the European Satellite Navigation Competition 

What do the problems look like?

One of the problems many tech companies blame for their lack of diverse hires is the education system. They claim that graduates with the relevant education and qualifications are mostly male and from affluent backgrounds. The big companies claim that diverse hiring is hard to do if they have a limited pool of talent to source employees from.

By 2020 it’s estimated there will be 1 million vacancies in the industry with not enough STEM graduates to fill them. The main problem seems to be lack of engagement (particularly amongst girls) in computing and interest in pursuing it academically.  

As well as education, culture appears to play a key role in female reluctance to pursue a career in technology. The image of technology companies is that they are culturally geared towards men and a lack of diversity can breed more of the sameness as recruiters tend to hire those who will be a ‘cultural fit’. Making it a vicious circle where new recruits are hired based on their likeliness to their future colleagues rather than on merit of skill.

A lack of female role models can also discourage girls from seeing tech as a viable career choice.  A recent piece of research from Stanford University shockingly found that “66% [of women in Silicon Valley] reported feeling excluded from social and networking activities due to their gender.”

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The Sign Time girls pitching their gamified sign language learning app

The importance of diversity

According to a report by Tech London Advocates diverse companies outperform non diverse ones by 34%. It is evident that having a variety of strengths and outlooks within the team makes for increased creativity and a more rounded output.

It is is also important to bear in mind that the end users of tech products are not one homogenous group but diverse. How can products be made effectively for a complex user base and address all their needs if the majority of those making them are white and male. It is quite probable the problem of one group dominating the development of tech could only get worse as we enter a world of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Digital Agenda explore this in depth in their article on how machines can pick up on any biases fed to them through the data they learn from; which can thereafter be fed into their algorithms. A diverse group of people building these products would be more likely to pick up on and address such biases.

What are we doing to address these issues?

There is inevitably still a long way to go until hiring a diverse employee base becomes the norm. To keep driving the necessary change forward we continue to give free access to technology education to those who would not necessarily have the means (or desire to search it out themselves). Inspiring students at a young age and equipping them with the skills to realise they are able to enjoy STEM subjects has alway been a key priority on the Apps for Good agenda.

Access to inspirational role models has also been one of the key ways we have been engaging students who may not have previously taken an interest in tech. We see this as one of the key stepping stones in the move towards breaking down the barriers some young people may have when it comes to getting technology education. 42% of our active industry Experts are female and we believe young girls seeing other women thriving in tech jobs encourages them and makes them consider that perhaps a career in tech could be relevant and exciting for them.

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The Fellows talking tech at this year’s awards

What have we achieved?

One of our main achievements as an organisation is getting a consistent 50/50 gender split with the students who choose to study the course. This engagement is strongly maintained with 30-50% of our winning teams at the annual awards being mixed or all female teams.  

We also manage to maintain a healthy 50% gender split in those students who sign up to be part of our Fellows program on graduation. This year we celebrated International Women’s Day by giving 48 female students the opportunity to speak with 7 leading women in the tech industry about their careers and how they got the opportunities they did. We have also had 7 female lead expert hang-outs to give students direct access to female role models.  

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50% of the schools where Apps for Good is taught receive a higher than average number of free school meals. It is our mission to continue to reach those young people experiencing barriers to their success, including inspiring more girls to see their future within technology. We have been working at removing the stereotype of computing being a ‘male’ subject early on by ensuring that the course is taught to both genders together. We have also found that the creativity, teamwork and real world learning aspects of the Apps for Good course peaks girls’ interest in the subject to hook them in.   We aim to continue increasing this to ensure that those lacking opportunity to develop their tech skills are provided with the lucrative education and connections.

This year our students have continued to feel positively inspired by the course. Slowly and surely we are helping with driving this change in the status quo. By the time Apps for Good students enter the workforce, we hope it will be a diverse one where people can learn from each other’s differences.

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Games for Good: How Apps for Good students are using games to teach and raise awareness.

Apps for Good has been nominated for GamesAid, sign-up and vote for us to show your support for the next generation of game developers, digital leaders and creative technologists.

In the below article, Business Development Executive Fergus explores the different ways that Apps for Good students are making an impact through games, and how the charity’s goals align with the needs of one of the UK’s fastest growing industries.

Games are a great way to transfer knowledge and spark interest. I remember playing Age of Empires as a kid, learning about Saladin and Joan of Arc as an 8 year old in a fun and engaging context has meant that my interest in history has endured as an adult. Beyond this, playing some games whilst growing up presented complex moral choices on a regular basis in immersive settings, fuelling my interest for philosophy which I ended up taking to degree level (I also don’t know if I would be as into football today had I not played a lot of Premier Manager 98 with my dad, but that’s probably a little less influential on my overall development).

What makes this form of media unique is being able to immerse yourself in a challenge, which is coincidentally a great way of learning. For me it was history, philosophy, sport and storytelling, and the developers of the games I have played are for the most part only trying to entertain rather than teach.

With this in mind, it strikes me as though there is potential out there to do something truly good with games on an educational level. Is that through making games that involve pointed educational content? At Apps for Good students are attempting to crack this difficult issue with some inspiring results.

Many of the ideas students on our courses in schools come up with are based around raising awareness of a certain issue, or helping other young people to learn about issues through play.  Some of the most successful apps trying to achieve this have come in the form of games or gamified content. My World of Atoms does a great job of engaging students with chemistry and the periodic table. The mobile game created by Apps for Good students Ben and Rebecca from Boswells school in Chelmsford takes the player on a journey of discovery across a landscape where they are able to collect elements to fill in the periodic table, and combine them to make compounds.

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Students taking our course are also using games to tell stories about real world issues that they care about. I was hugely impressed by Klaudia and Paweł, students from Gdynia that showcased Under the Eyelids at our Polish event this summer, a wonderfully designed platformer that takes players through the various stories of children affected by war, famine and other difficult circumstances, raising awareness of these issues as a result. We have also recently seen games created on our courses tackling subjects such as raising awareness among other young women about puberty, and teaching sign language in a fun and engaging way.

Through approaching the development of these ideas through a context that students care about, we see amazing games like these come to fruition. But it’s not just about the end product. Apps for Good’s mission statement describes the aim of the charity as “powering a generation to change their world with technology”, and that is exactly what we aim to have an impact on, both in the games industry and the wider tech sector.

The games industry is a massive contributor to UK GVA (1.4bn in 2015), and is growing. Thousands of new jobs are going to be needed over the next five years to support this growth, but recruiting talent is increasingly difficult. Added to this, there is a clear lack of gender representation with only 6% of technical or creative development roles filled by women, despite 48% of players the world over being female.

Furthermore, the broader games community is becoming more socially active, and millions of gamers are more responsive than ever to charitable efforts attached to games and their distribution platforms. This can be seen with the success of Humble Bundle and GamesAid’s new Digital for Good programme.

Apps for Good is working to introduce concepts, skills and experience that are in high demand in today’s technology job market to students of all backgrounds, with a focus on ensuring that girls and students facing barriers to their success are supported as a priority. We believe that our programme can have a direct impact on young people in this way, so that they can make a confident step towards becoming tomorrow’s socially-conscious tech leaders.

During the course of our campaign for the 2017 GamesAid vote, I have been getting in touch with studios across the UK that share our goals and mission and want to help us and the students that take our programme make a difference. We want to add more expertise in games to our expert community in order to help students take their projects further and gain vital real world context.

The funding that we would receive after a successful vote could be truly transformational in putting this network to greater use, as well as helping to broaden our reach in schools as we move into the next academic year.

I would love to see Apps for Good students crack the potential for games to educate on social issues, and I really believe that the examples that I have given above are only the beginning. I have already played a “Game for Good” created by Apps for Good students in the form of My World of Atoms, and I hope that with further support from the programme, talented young people like Ben and Rebecca can go on to develop games that teach us something important with some of the top studios in the UK.

If you are interested in having a chat about how your organisation can support or get involved, please get in touch with me! I am always keen to talk about our work and the different ways you might be able to support us.

Help build the next generation of tech talent and vote for Apps for Good for GamesAid 2017!

#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.