Four seniors at Michigan’s Midland High School are concerned about sexual assault on college campuses, so they built a smartphone app to keep students safe.
Seniors Gwynne Ozkan, Emma Jamrog, Preston Millward, and Gerard Bringard designed the app to track students as they move from “safe zones” to “danger zones” on college campuses and entered the idea in the Congressional App Challenge—a nationwide contest to inspire students to code.
Millwood, who coded the app to “make a difference in the world,” told NBC 25 he was honored when Michigan U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar sent the students an award letter in December recognizing their efforts.
"Most of the letters I get from colleges the signatures are all digital and not actual signatures, but from John Moolenaar I could tell it was an actual signature from him and that was really cool," he said.
"The gratification we had when we received an actual award from our congressman really helped to show our hard work actually paying off," Ozkan added.
NBC 25 explained how the app works:
In the app, campus security would designate safe zones—for example, a library or dorms. Students turn the app on when they leave safe zones and enter a danger zone, such as while walking alone at night.
If students don't turn the app off when they reach a safe zone, the app alerts campus security of the student's location, and security can call the student to check on him or her.
"We achieved our goal of what we want to do which is increase safety on college campuses, because we saw that as a really pertinent issue," Ozkan said.
In essence, the app is the kind of authentic learning that allows students to use their skills to help others.
It’s a part of the give and take between students and their world that University of Virginia sociologist James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, describes in his book The Death of Character.
"I take it is a given that learning (as well as life itself) is dialectical or reciprocal in nature,” Hunter wrote. “The individual acts in the world, to be sure, but the world also acts back on the individual."
Teachers in all subject areas can engage their students in authentic learning projects that address the real needs of their friends, classmates, and neighbors using resources available on Edutopia.org and other sites.
Educators at Crellin Elementary, for example, offer a framework that inspires student service work at their Oakland, Maryland school, where they said the focus is on helping students connect what they learn in the classroom with the real world.