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Flowery Branch students join others to create apps
Dawn Madden, Flowery Branch teacher who organized the school’s “SharkTank” presentations, shows, from left, Felecia Doyle and Christy Carter, both work-based learning coordinators at Flowery Branch High School, part of the technology before the online presentations Tuesday. - photo by RON BRIDGEMAN

Flowery Branch High School students, and three other schools, combined technology and compassion in an online project, “Mad about Mattering,” seeking to “change the world” one team said.

“Global Problems. Student-created app solutions,” the FBHS website said Thursday.

The projects started in February and concluded Tuesday with the “SharkTank” competition — five presentations online featuring students from the different schools.

The winner announced Friday afternoon was “Uncut,” designed to prevent self-harm. The app won by 0.34 of one point. Second place was “Break the Chain,” stopping sex trafficking,” and third was “Overty,” fighting poverty

Flowery Branch students who were part of the “Uncut” app and presentation were Travis Ray, assistant project manager Shelby McDonald, Sebastian Mercado, Orion Brown, Dashauna King, Nathan Moncada, Stone Jacob and Bryan Turner.

“I thought it went really well. My students spoke really well and represented the project and the school really well,” Dawn Madden, technology teacher, said.

After making their presentations Tuesday, the students responded to questions from the judges. Questions ranged from how names for the app were selected to how pages for the websites might be combined or divided.

One judge wanted to know if the “Uncut” app could track the activities of teens who connected with it.

She said the students responded well to the judges’ questions and had done careful research.

“This all came from them. The teachers did very little to help them,” Madden said.

“They all contributed to the project overall. They also had to learn to get along and collaborate. They were the group that had the hardest time coming to consensus. They were very passionate. That was a bit of a problem at times,” she said.

Madden was grinning from ear-to-ear afterward.

“They all did beautifully,” she said as the online presentations wrapped up.

About 185 students participated in the project, 75 from Flowery Branch.

FBHS students participated in all five of the presentations Tuesday. The five were selected from 13 finalists.

The other two apps and presentations were No Excuse for Abuse, to raise awareness of, and stop, animal abuse, and Suicide Prevention.

In addition to Flowery Branch, participating schools were Ron Clark Academy and Westwood Schools in Georgia and Driver Middle School in Indiana. Judges for the project include executives from Amazon, Google and Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Technology.

The project sought to join students, their technology and their compassion. It was conceived and promoted by Vicki Davis at Westwood Schools, Angela Maiers from Choose2Matter and Alefiya Bhatia from Crescerance/MAD-Learn.

Announcing the project, Davis asked, “What breaks your heart? How can you use that heartbreak to create an app that matters to our world?”

Students started by brainstorming ideas and selecting topics. They created “heartbreak” maps and jointed other students who shared that. They researched the topic, created videos, websites and the apps for their projects.

Participants, including the audience, also could vote online for their favorite app. That was 10 percent of the final scores.

Madden said the teachers involved in the project will meet this week to talk about the process. She noted the group is committed to providing information and links for any other group that might want to do something similar.

She noted the timing might be changed. End of the year tests and honors events sometimes overshadowed the project.

“We did like doing the collaborative thing,” Madden said. “We have lofty projections for this project. The kids really learned a lot.”

Madden explained that some students who were leaders on the project missed class for AP tests. The other students had to operate on their own.

“It was good for the kids — what do you do when you aren’t being told what to do” she asked, rhetorically.

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