A couple hundred high school students from across Arizona are competing against one another to create a mobile app to benefit Gilbert’s public safety department.

Students gathered at Arizona State University’s Polytechnic Campus on Jan. 31 to launch the second-annual Schools Participate in App Resource and Knowledge (SPARK) App League. SPARK App League is a three-month contest challenging students to build a mobile app for Gilbert Fire and Rescue.

To launch the contest, high school students with a wide range of experience visited the ASU campus for a one-day event to learn how to develop a mobile app and learned about the aspects of building an app, including coding, design and usability. A panel of judges — composed of Mayor John Lewis, Town Manager Patrick Banger, Fire Chief Jim Jobusch and representatives from ASU and Intel — will evaluate the apps based on those criteria to determine the best overall app.

Gilbert Digital Applications Specialist Alfredo Moreno said this year’s app theme is in response to the Gilbert Police Department app created last year.

“This year they are focusing on Gilbert Fire and Rescue. Apps could include fire locations, fire safety tips and jobs,” he said.

Students work in teams of two to five members to build Gilbert Fire and Rescue’s new mobile app. They are encouraged to use public information from the town of Gilbert to create apps for a variety of uses.

Teams must have at least one faculty member who will serve as team advisor, and more than one team per school is allowed to participate. Students can code their app to any platform of their choice such as Android, iOS and Windows 7, and the final product is due by April 17.

Students also will submit a two to three minute video describing the app they have created to be used during the judging process as part of their presentation. The video will include a summary of the app, a description of the need for the app, a description of how the app will affect the intended audience, and a description of how science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills were used in the process of developing the app.

Prizes will be awarded at the SPARK App League awards ceremony at the ASU Polytechnic Campus on May 1. The prize for best overall app will win a $200 gift card per member, a trophy and have their app featured on the Gilbert App Store for residents, visitors and businesses to download.

Even though the contest is only in its second year, the SPARK App League has already grown in popularity among students — whereas 75 students participated in 2013, 246 students have signed on for this year’s contest.

Visit www.sparkappleague.com for more information.

• Kelly, a senior studying journalism at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is an intern with the Tribune this semester. She can be reached at kmkleber@asu.edu.

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