The McKinley Tech HS students who thought of the GFire app

A group of 7 students from D.C.-based McKinley Technology High School have won $5,000, a new LG tablet each, and the chance to compete on a national level against students across the U.S. who are also coming up with creative mobile app ideas.

The students did not code an app, but rather brainstormed ideas in a design thinking session, completed an application with essays along with a video explaining their vision and sent the material to Verizon for review.

The prize money will go to the McKinley Tech’s expansive computer science program, which currently offers a variety of courses including cybersecurity and video game design.

Now the D.C. students behind the fire safety GFire app design concept, recognized as state winners, will move onto the next phase of Verizon’s yearly Innovative App Challenge.

Dr. Melanie Wiscount, a McKinley computer science professor that teaches students on the GFire team, said that the idea for the app was inspired by a student in the group who’s aunt had passed away in a house fire in D.C. in 2013. In addition, Wiscount said that she along with the students discovered that the District is among cities with the most building fires per capita in the U.S. As a result, the McKinley group’s plan was to conceive a mobile app that may one day alert, detect, monitor user movements and provide emergency plans in the case of a home fire.

According to the latest data available via the U.S. Fire Administration, the District, West Virginia and Mississippi had the most deaths per million population in the U.S. in 2013 when it came to home fires.

App design concept

This week, Verizon announced the first round of winners, selecting from more than 1200 entries from middle and high school teams nationwide, to determine 92 “Best in State” finalists. Now the students will have their ideas judged for the opportunity to see their design concept become a reality.

The winner of the national competition will have a group of developers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) visit their respective school and eventually build a real app that will mirror the student’s design.

Outside of the national Verizon app competition stage, there is another facet of this tournament that let’s anyone interested vote for their favorite app design. This part revolves around a “fan favorite” selection, where the school team with the most votes wins not just this auxiliary achievement but also an additional $15,000 prize for STEM program funding.

To vote for the McKinley GFire team or to simply find out more about Verizon’s yearly Innovative App Challenge, check out the event’s main webpage.