High school students create Gilbert app in ASU competition

By Jacqueline Maxwell

High school students from all over Arizona can create the Town of Gilbert’s new app through an ASU competition this spring.

Eighty students participated at the competition’s kickoff on Friday at the ASU Polytechnic campus in Mesa, with direction from ASU professors and Gilbert employees. The winning app will be used to inform Gilbert residents of news about parks and recreation and community events.

“By challenging students to utilize mobile technology and data, we will continue to improve engagement with and enhance the lives of our residents,” said Town Manager Patrick Banger. Gilbert is thrilled about its partnership with ASU for Arizona’s first mobile applications contest, he said.

App development is not new to the ASU Polytechnic campus, however. ASU Students have had the opportunity to create apps at school workshops in the past, said Professor Ashish Amresh, who teaches ASU classes on video game design.

The Polytechnic campus has held past events, such as “make an app in a day” workshops, which received tremendous response, leading to brainstorming for future contests and workshops, Amresh said.

When Gilbert heard about ASU’s app development programs, they made the decision to partner with ASU to build a competition that would use the innovative ideas of high school students to further Gilbert’s goal of keeping residents informed, Amresh said.

Due to the growing use of smartphones and tablets, developing a town app like this is relevant and will be helpful to residents, Amresh said.

“This is part of our town’s vision to be an open-transparency town,” said Alfredo Moreno, who works in the Gilbert mobile applications department.

Data that is hosted on the competition’s website, sparkappleague.com, will be used by the competing students to develop their apps, Moreno said.

Some of that data includes specific information, such as how many picnic tables a park might have or finding where the next tire station is located, Moreno said.

The winning team will be chosen on May 1 and receive a grand prize including a $1,000 donation to their school, a $250 gift card for each team member, and their app will be featured on the Town of Gilbert app store.

The benefits of getting involved with the contest are not just the prizes, however. “It’s more than just winning the contest. It’s coming here and participating and getting a different perspective on programming,” said Michael Drobitsky, a video game development teacher from Skyline High School.

“[Our team] wanted to further our education in apps so that we can have a more in-depth knowledge for our own personal applications and then our careers themselves,” said Jackson Brush, a senior at Red Mountain High School who is participating in the contest.

This competition will help him get a head start on the career of his choice, Brush said.

Challenging students to utilize mobile technology and data will improve engagement and enhance the lives of residents, Banger said.

Students can register for the SPARK App League by visiting sparkappleague.com by March 8, and must have their final apps submitted by April 19.