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Albany, Berkeley High School Girls Present Apps Developed in Lab-Supported Program

April 30, 2012

Contact: Jon Bashor, [email protected], 510-486-5849

Top Left: CS Deputy Jonathan Carter listens to Berkeley High students describe their Reducit! app.
Top Right: Rebecca Lieber of Albany High School explains NapApp as part of Technovation pitch day.
Bottom: Albany HIgh's Coffee Beans team with their winning app, StudiCafe.
Photos by Nancy Li, Albany High School.

Eleven teams of high school girls who have been meeting with mentors at Berkeley Lab since February to develop science education apps for smartphones gave their best pitches for their work Saturday, with a team from Albany High taking top honors for StudiCafe, an app aimed at helping students study for college-level Advanced Placement courses with social networking added to maintain interest.

The team, nicknamed Coffee Beans, will go on to compete against 10 other winning teams from the Bay Area, New York, Boston and Los Angeles. The program is called Technovation and seeks to help girls become creators of technology, not just consumers. Berkeley Lab hosted the 10 meetings at which the girls learned to do market research, develop their apps and then come up with marketing pitches for Saturday's Pitch Day. Twenty-four lab staff members, including eight from Computing Sciences, served as mentors for the girls.

In opening the Saturday morning program, AnnaLise Hoopes of Iridescent, the non-profit which runs Technovation, made a point of thanking Berkeley Lab, one of several supporters. "The support has been tremendous, from donating their space to recruiting mentors to providing a generous financial sponsorship for the program." Hoopes told the audience.

On Saturday, about 200 girls, parents, friends and supporters filled the David Brower Center in Berkeley for the pitch event featuring the teams that met at the Lab. That afternoon, a similar program featured teams that met at UC Berkeley. The morning began with the teams setting up displays and talking about their projects. After that, the teams made their pitches to a full auditorium.

"The poise and confidence of the teams really impressed me," said Computing Sciences Deputy Jonathan Carter, one of four judges.

Other judges were Gene Alston, vice president of Groupon, Wayee Chu, Associate Partner of the NewSchools Venture Fund and Benny Madsen, CEO of LitePoint Corp.

Each team worked to develop an app for Android smart phones, with the only condition that the app be related to science education. Here is a look at the winning apps:

StudiCafé will provide high school students with a tool that is a fun and effective way to study for an AP science class or test, while allowing students to socialize at the same time. Students could study using flash cards, take quizzes, visit different AP Cafés for different subjects, and compare their progress to others. The team said they would market the app through social networking sites, but also would consider partnering with one of the companies providing support to students studying for the tests.

In announcing StudiCafe as the top app, judge Chu said it was an incredibly hard decision, but that the business plan was very articulate, identifying a clear problem and a clear market.

Taking second place was Bond: A Chemical Bromance by Albany High's Team Infintiy. The app is designed to help students study for the Chemistry AP test by playing a narrative game. The use becomes an element and then follows a story line to interact with other chemicals, forming bonds, dealing with parents, dating and "even singing annoying songs on the school bus" as they form long-term relationships.

After announcing the judges’ decision, Carter added "As a former chemist, I've never seen chemistry presented in quite this way."

Tying for third place were CramJam by Berkeley High's Team Harmony and NapApp by Albany's Napsters. CramJam would use music videos, such as "The Bone Dance," as well as science-related videos created by teachers and students. The team noted that music is ideal for learning as it stimulates the same part of the brain that helps you retain information. Judge Alston complimented the team on their creative approach to learning and the plan to involve teachers.

The NapApp is targeted at students aged 14 to 27 who don't get enough sleep, which according to their research is about 90 percent of that group. The app would help users realize the importance of getting enough sleep, explain what happens in your body during sleep and even help you wind down as the evening gets later. The team is looking to partner with companies making decaf beverages and foods such as bananas, which contain tryptophane. Judge Madsen said they clearly identified a pressing need "as everyone needs to find a better sleep pattern."

The other apps are:

Connect the Stars by Berkeley's Stargazers, an app that would tap into children's fascination with stars and help their parents work with them to learn more about the constellations by incorporating a version of "connect the dots."

BioPhysiChem by the Google Squad of Berkeley High is an app is designed to help teens from middle to high school study for their science classes by providing notes, quizzes, and diagrams that grab their attention to make studying biology, chemistry and physic fun.

Trackr by Albany's Team Enigma allows you to track work and break time, maintain focus, and increase productivity during both break and work time, even blocking access to social networking sites during work times to promote productive habits.

Food Chain Frenzy by Albany's Pigs in a Blanket team is designed for elementary and middle school students to teach them about the food chain in a fun, interactive way, with varying levels based on how well you understand the subject.

Berkeley Team 350's Reducit! is aimed at helping students understand how every day decisions can help reduce global warming by reducing their virtual carbon footprint while on a limited budget. Levels get more and more challenging, and users learn how to be green in a variety of situations.

Eco Prints by Berkeley's Small Feet team tracks everyday decisions and provide suggestions for reducing material impact on the environment. This app will benefit both consumers and producers. Producers pay a small fee that will then promote earth friendly products to consumers, which increase sales. Consumers find the best products and lead healthy lifestyles.

Brain Shower by Berkeley's To The Point Learning provides supplemental-help for elementary school children and their parents (especially) to excel in the sciences; life sciences, earth sciences, investigation and experimentation as per the California State Standards. Through informational reports, demos, trivia, and games, both students and parents can learn a lot while still having fun.

Although only one app will go on to compete for top honors and to be professionally developed for the Android app market, Hoopes called all of them "incredible," while judge Chu told the audience "I've never been more inspired."

About Computing Sciences at Berkeley Lab

High performance computing plays a critical role in scientific discovery, and researchers increasingly rely on advances in computer science, mathematics, computational science, data science, and large-scale computing and networking to increase our understanding of ourselves, our planet, and our universe. Berkeley Lab’s Computing Sciences Area researches, develops, and deploys new foundations, tools, and technologies to meet these needs and to advance research across a broad range of scientific disciplines.

Founded in 1931 on the belief that the biggest scientific challenges are best addressed by teams, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and its scientists have been recognized with 13 Nobel Prizes. Today, Berkeley Lab researchers develop sustainable energy and environmental solutions, create useful new materials, advance the frontiers of computing, and probe the mysteries of life, matter, and the universe. Scientists from around the world rely on the Lab’s facilities for their own discovery science. Berkeley Lab is a multiprogram national laboratory, managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit energy.gov/science.