Farragut team takes top prize at CodeTN competition

Tracy Haun OwensFarragut

Is there a problem or an unmet need in your community? The next generation may have an app for that.

Knoxville’s CodeTN, part of Great Schools Partnership, held its fourth annual CodeTN competition Jan. 19 at The Standard on Jackson Avenue. Teams from 15 area schools had been working for months each to develop web applications that could be used to solve problems in their schools or communities. At the event, judges narrowed the group down to five finalist teams to present their applications.

The winning team, from Farragut High School, took home a grand prize of $5,000 for the school and a $500 gift card for each of the team members. The second-place team, from Bearden High School, won $2,500 for the school and $250 gift cards for team members.

The winning app, Common Good, connects people with volunteer opportunities, filtered by interest and location. The five-person student team used the charitable giving evaluator Charity Navigator to weed out not-for-profits with bad ratings.

The months working on the Common Good app were intense but worth it, says Farragut sophomore Elizabeth Morris.

“Coding is a fun experience that everyone should try,” she says. “We need more coders out there.”

Getting more students involved in computer science and tech design is the reason for CodeTN, says the organization’s director, Caleb Fristoe. In the past, it’s been only those students who were good at math or science who would be steered toward coding, when really the field needs all kinds of minds. That means students who are good at the arts, students who are good at writing, students who are good at project management. Fristoe says he’s seen more of that in the most recent competition.

“What we’ve experienced is the incredible agility and adaptability on the part of the students,” Fristoe says. “The winning teams have a unique combination of varying talents.”

All student teams work with a sponsoring teacher (Brandi Finchum coached the Farragut team). CodeTN uses volunteer tech professionals to help the students in developing, testing and troubleshooting their apps. Each tech pro spends about three to five hours a week working with his or her team. Because the teams work with open-source software, Fristoe says, there are no licensing fees and no cash barriers for student involvement.

This year was the first appearance in the competition for two schools, Harriman and Powell high schools. Fristoe says the organization is currently working on strategies to attract a more diverse group of students to the competition and to keep “evangelizing” computer science within local communities.

“We want parents to be excited and we want to give all kinds of kid’s opportunities,” he says. “People aren’t aware of what is possible.”

Info: www.codetn.org

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