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NYC teens learn how to develop apps during weeklong hackathon

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

 CampInteractive Young Entrepreneurs Lisandro Melendez, and Brianna Benjamin  discuss their Android app at The Surf Lodge in Montauk. Credit: Provided CampInteractive Young Entrepreneurs Lisandro Melendez and Brianna Benjamin discuss their Android app at The Surf Lodge in Montauk.
Credit: Provided

When Lisandro Melendez and his teammates from CampInteractive's after-school program were tasked with coming up with an app that would help members of their Bronx community, one word instantly came to mind: safety.

"I don't feel safe going out at night," explains Melendez, a student at All Hallows High School in the Bronx. After some brainstorming sessions, the group came up with the idea for SafeVoyages, an app that guides users through different neighborhoods while utilizing the safest route possible. "It looks at the least amount of crime, murders — things like that," he says.

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Melendez and his teammates, along with about a dozen other CampInteractive students, spent last week in the Long Island resort town of Montauk, where they transformed the Surf Lodge hotel into a temporary app development studio as part of the organization's Young Entrepreneurs Summit. Other apps students worked on include an anonymous health-focused app in which teens can get information about sexually transmitted diseases and a program that tracks how often New York City parks in the Bronx are maintained relative to parks in other boroughs in the city.

"The kids in the schools that we work in don't have access to computer science classes," says CampInteractive's program director Tom O'Connell. O'Connell, who was a high school science teacher until he joined CampInteractive earlier this spring, says there is a nationwide shortage of computer science teachers and that urban areas are hit particularly hard.

"By the time our students are done with the curriculum, they have the skills to do front end development work," O'Connell continues. In addition to running its annual entrepreneurial summit and afterschool program, CampInteractive also helps place its students in internships at startups around the city. "They are making way more money this summer [at their internships] than they did at their past jobs," O'Connell notes.

CampInteractive — which is part of the education arm of the organization, C/I — hopes its programs will encourage many of its students to ultimately decide to major in computer science when they get to college. That plan looks like it worked in the case of student Lisandro Melendez.

"At first I wanted to be a veterinarian," he says. "But now I want to study computer science."

Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.

 
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