Students create app to help kids discover dream jobs

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Students create app to help kids discover dream jobs

7:46 a.m. PST January 20, 2016

When a child is asked what they want to be when they grow up, they might not know.

“I like sports!” one might say.

But not every sports-loving child will become an athlete, as school counselor Toby Rhine said. So what other careers could they pursue and would still love?

Perhaps that child could one day be a sports announcer, an athletic-gear designer, or a physical therapist.

To help young students better find careers they will enjoy and people in the local area to help them get there, six students from West Salem High School have come up with the idea for an interactive app called “Kidspiration.”

Jonathan Fredericks, 16, Lucas Plaisted, 14, Madison Plaisted, 16, Kara Warkentin, 15, Emma Fagan, 16, and Ty Brewen, 16, recently won “Best in State” for their app in the Verizon Innovative App Challenge.

Should the team make it to nationals, they would have the opportunity to work with MIT professionals and turn their idea for the app into a working product.

The app starts by taking the kids through a fun, interactive career aptitude test, Brewen said.

But the app doesn’t stop there. Once the students see their job recommendations, they are given a map of nearby locations that do what the student might be interested in, further connecting them with resources, mentors and opportunities to explore the job.

West Salem’s team was one of the 93 student teams from middle and high schools across the country named “Best in State” by a panel of judges assembled by the Technology Student Association, which included educators and industry experts.

The goal of the challenge, as explained by Verizon spokesperson Scott Charleston, is to “find an idea for an app that doesn’t exist.”

Each team received a $5,000 award from the Verizon Foundation, and tablets for each student team member.

Additionally, Best in State teams are in the running to earn one of eight “Best in Nation” awards, plus the new App Challenge Fan Favorite award. The West Salem team is one of the top three teams in the Northwest regional competition, bringing them a step closer to nationals.

Prizes for these national awards include an additional $15,000 for their school or club, the chance to build their concepts into working apps with MIT Media Lab experts and an all-expenses-paid trip to the TSA Conference in Nashville, Tennessee in June 2016, said Verizon officials.

“That’s something else,” Fredericks said.

“We give so much admiration to athletes, why not more to students in the classroom?” Charleston said.

Though the Kidspiration app is still in the idea phase, the students have a lot of ideas for it.

The original thought for the app came from a brainstorm between the students’ teacher, Michael Lambert, and Rhine, a counselor at Brush College Elementary School in Salem.

Rhine, in accordance with new teaching standards, must now do career counseling with her elementary students and provide evidence of the career preparation.

She said she wanted something to help get people in the area, ready and cleared to speak on their careers for 20 minutes.

She was brainstorming over the new standards with Lambert when she said, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was an app that you could use to find guest speakers?”

They wanted something immediate, maybe allow a student to job shadow or volunteer; something that provided a practical application.

Lambert thought it was a great idea for a real app.

When he discussed the idea with Brewen, it sank in and “BOOM,” Brewen said.

He was determined to find a way to help the students figure out what career would interest them, something they would enjoy doing.

When he told the elementary students about his app idea, he said, “(They) were so excited … they really wanted to use it.”

The app has been semi-jokingly compared to Tinder, as the career aptitude test portion of the app has students swipe “yes,” “no,” or “I don’t know.”

The questions start broadly and narrow as the student continues. At the end of the test, the app recommends the number one job from the test results, but provides other occupations that came close in scoring.

For instance, it might start with questions like, “Do you want to work indoors?” and continue from there. Then it could suggest the person becomes a firefighter, but under the main recommendation, there will be a list of other occupations the person might like, such as EMT, Brewen described.

The person can take the test as many times as they would like if they are not enticed by the initial suggestion.

The students said Lambert always encourages and helps students get involved with these competitions and once they heard about Brewen’s idea, they wanted to be a part of it.

The group likes to meet in Lambert’s classroom for lunch anyway, so it was easy for the group of friends to schedule time to work.

“I’m ecstatic,” Lambert said. “They just ran with it.”

On Feb. 2, the challenge will conclude with the announcement of eight Best in Nation teams and one Fan Favorite app concept chosen through public voting.

npate@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6745, or follow on Twitter @Nataliempate or http://www.Facebook.com/nataliepatejournalist

To vote for Kidspiration, text “KIDSPIRATION2” to 22-333. 

To view the Kidspiration promotional video by Fredericks, go to https://youtu.be/0O63Y5DOenk

For more information on the Verizon Innovative App Challenge, go to http://appchallenge.tsaweb.org/.

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