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 our Business Development Exec 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 ideas 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 with 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.

Award Winning teams showcase 2017’s pioneering ideas

This year’s Apps for Good Award winners designed apps to help dementia sufferers and the elderly, teach sign language and make revision more efficient

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The fantastic 2017 finalists onstage 

The Apps for Good annual Awards ceremony (now in it’s 6th year) celebrates the young tech entrepreneurs who have completed the Apps for Good course. The event, at the end of the school calendar, is a culmination of all the ideas, learnings and hard work which students and teachers have put into the completion of the course throughout the year. The finalist teams are selected from the 25,000 students who have created the technology product which tackles the problem or issue they care about.

Schools from across the UK were in attendance at this year’s awards and it was a true celebration of the movement and impact student’s ideas are having on communities across the country. A previous example of an app helping to change a community is the Cattle Manager App which won at a past awards and has now been professionally developed and downloaded more than 25,000 times.

The team behind Cattle Manager app

The Cattle Manager team from Wick High School (Award winners 2013)

The quality of ideas brought to the finals means the stakes of the competition are always high and this year was no exception! The ideas which were finalists at the 2017 Awards maintained the outstanding quality we have become used to and the judges found it a tough challenge to select the winners.

Our partners (including Thomson Reuters, SAP, Samsung, Virgin Red and GoDaddy) and awards guests got to see the quality of all the students’ work in the marketplace where the students’ aim was to win votes in the prestigious People’s Choice Award. James Tipple, Managing Director, Virgin Red (sponsors of the People’s Choice Award) said the marketplace was “A unique insight in how the next generation view “the world” and are thinking about how to change it.”

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The team from Holy Trinity CofE Primary School David, Zamyrah, Hayden, Samiyah, Caleb & Kamira bring their app Read: It (which helps children learn to read on their own) to the marketplace

Students addressed a wide variety of issues with their tech ideas this year, ranging from not knowing what to do in the summer holidays, to helping charities buy essential items, to teen health and taking care of loved ones. The quality of research, design and execution the students had put into their work was phenomenal; the time and dedication they had put into their pitches did not go unnoticed. Nick Budd, Digital Business Architect at Capgemini noted There was great enthusiasm shown by all the teams pitching. They all showed great confidence and resilience dealing with awkward questions from the ‘old’ Dragons. If we could somehow replicate the maturity that the 3 young VIP speakers demonstrated then companies would stop complaining about the skills of young recruits.”

The girls from the Micro:gate team pitch their idea to the dragons

After extremely tough deliberations the judges had to come to a final decision as to who would take the prizes. They wanted to crown everyone a winner but had some strict criteria which needed to be adhered to. “The students innovation, enthusiasm and creativity was fantastic. A pleasure to see and to be part of the event”, said Tcha Willson, Head of IT Operations, Octopus Group.

This year’s winning teams by category were:

Internet of Things Category powered by Samsung
Safe Step from Dunoon Grammar School

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Their digital product Safe Step was created to help users keep an eye on friends or relatives by letting them know if they’ve had a fall. Functions of the product include smart bath and door mats so that users will be alerted of falls in high risk zones in the home such as the bathroom.

The team said “We are delighted to have taken part in this IoT course – it has helped us to build confidence as well as many other skills. It feels amazing that we are the winners of our IoT category.”

Check out their pitch video here.

 

Information category powered by Thomson Reuters
Booksy from Elstree UTC

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The Booksy app was created to promote visual and collaborative learning amongst GSCE students. The app allows users to scan and upload their notes linked to course textbook pages, see objects linked to the specification in virtual reality when they are scanned from course materials. Another feature for users of the app is collaboration with other users by sharing their notes and findings amongst the community on Booksy.

The winning team is made up of Kirsty, Savanna and Andrew who all took part in the Apps for Good course at their school Elstree UTC. They said “Apps for Good has given us the invaluable experience of designing, pitching and talking about our app. Seeing the diverse range of opportunities/roles within the tech industry really makes us excited for the future. The program broadened our understanding of the industry.

Productivity category powered by SAP
Home Help from Bridgwater and Taunton College

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The app was created to help people suffering from early dementia to track stored belongings using visual cues and support them to develop habitual locations for storage.

The winning team is made up of Becci, Nikita and Ryan. Their reaction to winning the award was “We were really happy to get shortlisted but a bit nervous. After working with our accelerator we were well prepared for the pitch and we’re really pleased we won! A really good day.”

People’s Choice Award powered by Virgin Red
Sign Time from St Marylebone CE School

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The winning app was created to teach children how to communicate in sign language through visual learning and games. Its features include:

  • Videos to promote visual learning, encouraging users to sign along with them.
  • Mini-games and quizzes
  • Quick play feature using the phone’s inbuilt camera to test/rate user’s sign language against the videos in the app.

On receiving their prize of support and mentoring from Virgin Red and Holly Branson the team (Anna, Michelle and Lily) said “We’ve really enjoyed working on the Apps for Good course. We’ve been working really hard to on our idea and presentation, the team is so happy we won! We’re really looking forward to working with Virgin Red on developing our idea.”

 

Fellow of the Year powered by GoDaddy
Adam Lee from Mount Grace

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Adam, aged 18 from Mount Grace School Potters Bar, was the winner of this year’s Fellow of the Year Award. The award recognises Adams’s outstanding commitment to furthering his skills, inspiring other young people and creating positive change in the world through technology.

Adam, along with the other two Finalists, Tasneem Rahman and Holly Dyson will now work with GoDaddy EMEA, the category sponsor. GoDaddy EMEA will look to provide mentorship across a range of different areas including marketing, user research and digital entrepreneurship, to help provide the fellows with the skills they need to be the tech leaders of tomorrow.

Employability Skills Prizes 

The Employability Skills Prizes are chosen before the awards day and recognise those teams who have shown outstanding ability in a specific area of the course. There are prizes for Tech, Research and Marketing.

This year’s winners are:

Tech Prize“Advantage”
 Arif, Yousuf, Ibraheem, Rafay, Ismaeel & Zubayr from Challney High School for Boys, Luton
Team Advantage
The app helps the user discover the apprenticeships and job opportunities right for them. The Tech Prize recognises the team’s achievements in creating a working prototype.
Marketing Prize “Midge Forecast”
 Archie, Scott & Ryan from Wick High School, Wick
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The app helps to predict and avoid midge outbreaks and plan your walks. The boys’ hilarious memes in their twitter and facebook marketing campaigns really caught the attention of the judges.
Research Prize“Read:it”
David, Zamyrah, Hayden, Samiyah, Caleb & KamiraHoly Trinity Church of England Primary School, Lewisham
The team’s app idea which scans new words to hear what they sound like aims to help children learn to read by themselves.

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As always the whole day was extremely memorable and one of the most exciting days in the Apps for Good calendar. We would like to extend another huge congratulations to all our entrants, finalists and winners this year; your ideas and enthusiasm never fail to astound us!

fellow presenting .jpgApps for Good fellow Jasvanth hosts the ceremony 

Apps for Good Awards 2017: Meet the Fellows of the Year

The Fellowship Prize, powered by GoDaddy, celebrates three outstanding Apps for Good students who’ve gone above and beyond the course to continue engaging with tech and entrepreneurship. We’re pleased to present the 2017 finalists for the Fellowship prize. All nominees will be receiving mentoring sessions from GoDaddy in areas of interest, including marketing, user research and entrepreneurship. 

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Internet of Things for Good – New course for the new school year

This year, we piloted an Internet of Things (IoT) course powered by Samsung, which is now open to all Apps for Good schools. Here Learning Content Manager, Donna Hay, talks about the new course and some key information teachers need to know.

Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the connection of everyday objects to the internet (and to one another) with the goal of smarter, more efficient experiences. These ‘smart’ devices can be anything from fridges and washing machines to wearables, medical equipment and jet engines. The Apps for Good IoT course explores the benefits and potential issues surrounding IoT and gives an introduction to the technology underpinning these devices. Students work in teams to design and prototype an IoT project which solves a real-life problem, with an emphasis on building technical physical computing skills and the design of the devices to develop a great user experience.

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The Fellowship: how can I get professional experience in tech?

Almost half of the students completing the Apps for Good course say afterwards that they are interested in a technology focused career. Apps for Good students and teachers alike tell us that real-world experience is essential, and many employers feel the same. This blog is part of our latest project with Monster to provide high-quality content and support for Apps for Good Students and Fellows keen to find out more about careers in tech.

In 2012, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills cited “lack of experience” as the number one reason employers gave for turning young applicants away. At the same time, students and teaches tell tell us that formal work experience placements are increasingly difficult to find.

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There’s no reason to fear! Here are some helpful ways to get out there, get experience and get a taste of what the tech industry is really like.

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