Lower Merion High School recently hosted "Code. Design. Story." – an interdisciplinary endeavor promoting collaboration between the arts and sciences through the creation, design and launch of mobile applications. Students across AP English Language, Computer Science Seminar and Communication Design courses, with guidance and mentorship from LMHS staff and community members, joined forces to take their apps from the seed of an idea to the screen.
"I got inspiration for this project over the last couple of years while working on the District's Strategic Plan's Transformative Curriculum Pathway team and by interacting with professional product and project managers from the community," said LMHS Computer Science teacher, Tom Swope. "A large focus of the transformative curriculum pathway team was to provide students with opportunities to do authentic, student-driven work."
The project began with an open-ended prompt encouraging students to create an app that was not only useful, but also something of particular interest to them as a way to cultivate enthusiasm and excitement throughout the process.
After honing in on their ideas, students in Swope's Computer Science Seminar - along with their counterparts in Brian Mays' AP English Language and Ben Walsh's Communication Design classes - worked with mentors from the community to help them think through the scope of their apps and both set and meet goals throughout the design process. The mentor team included Oli Pfeffer, a Senior Software Engineer with Ring, the smart doorbell company; Software Architect Patrick Pant; David Shaw, Senior Systems Director and Project Manager at iPipeline; John Granieri, who works on back-testing systems for automated trading strategies with Susquehanna International Group (SIG); and Jeanine Heck, a product manager at Comcast.
While the Computer Science Seminar students used their knowledge in programming concepts to build the apps, the Communication Design team was hard at work developing all of the related graphics, including designing icons and logos, along with color and font schemes. Mr. Mays' AP English Language classes then wrote articles about the class and project, crafted descriptions about each app, advertisements that were used in promotional materials, and slides for the final presentation.
The creativity and ingenuity of all the teams were on full display as they made their final pitch to a panel of expert judges at the culminating event, which took place in front of a standing-room-only crowd. Among the competitors at this year's event were:
- FitChoice, an app that optimizes exercise efficiency through the ability to identify which muscle groups users want to work out and then generates a list of exercises specific to their input
- HallWaze, which helps students navigate the school by syncing their class schedule with the bell schedule and guiding users to their next destination
- MovieHeads, an app featuring a new and improved rating system that combines the qualities users love in movies and generates a list to suit their tastes
- Brack[It], an app that simplifies the bracket-making process for tournament-style play
With the judges' and crowd votes tallied, however, it was the Dish Detectives app that took top honors in this year's competition. Dish Detectives (pictured above) allows users to input ingredients they already have in their kitchen and generates a list of possible quick-and-easy recipes.
LMSD offers a transformative interdisciplinary curriculum that is student-driven and fosters innovation and positive risk-taking. It transcends Standards, is inquiry-based, and connects the classroom to the world. Our curriculum encompasses diverse perspectives, promotes global awareness, and makes use of culturally responsive teaching and learning practices. This dynamic, adaptable curriculum provides vertically and horizontally aligned curricular experiences, ensuring every student learns from the connections across subject areas and receives a comprehensive and balanced education. Subject material is relevant to the world our children will enter in college and as adults. Innovation is the rule and not the exception.