Top Boston-area high-schoolers visit MIT Sloan for class on mobile app development

August 24, 2012

Mobile application boot camp High school students collaborate on a mobile app design at MIT Sloan last week

One app tracks a student’s GPA through high school and makes college suggestions based on his progress and strengths. Another is called Pet Parade. That one lets users post pictures of their pets and vote on their favorites.

You won’t find these apps on your tablet computer just yet. They were conceived just last week, the brainstorm of 30 Boston-area high school students who met at MIT Sloan for a two-day “mobile application boot camp.”

The students will now develop new app ideas at home and enter them in a contest for a $20,000 scholarship to the school of their choice. Similar boot camps were held at University of California—Berkeley, University of Texas at Dallas, and Georgia Institute of Technology. In all, 120 students across the country took the course.

“We actually got into a group and planned an app,” said Kerlie Merizier, 16, a student at the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science in Boston. “We got to come up with an idea and design it on the board.”

“We were able to meet with so many career professionals and talk to them about how they got where they were,” said Henry Tsang, 16, a student at Boston Latin School, and a partner of Merizier’s in designing the college suggestion app.

The course was run by Samsung—students worked on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2—and Scholastic, the educational publishing company.

Many of the students, all of whom excel in math, science, and technology, were surprised to learn they would not be coding, but instead considering business and marketing to determine if their finished product would pass muster in a crowded market.

“The real goal is to get them to understand the world of mobile apps,” said Dana Farbo, director of new media at Vanguard Direct and an instructor for the boot camp. “We’re putting them through a program to see how an idea comes together, and how you go about building an idea, not programming, not coding, but how an idea comes together in the marketplace.”

“It’s a tremendous experience for them to see the best in the world of technology institutions like this,” Farbo said. “To take a course here and see people walking around who are rock stars in the industry.”

The course was part of MIT Sloan’s multi-faceted partnership with Samsung. The company recruits graduates from the School and is a sponsor of MIT Sloan’s China initiatives. Samsung Telecommunications America President Dale Sohn is a 1997 graduate of the MIT Sloan Fellows Program in Innovation and Global Leadership.

“MIT Sloan is committed to nurturing future generations of leaders who will work where the sciences and business intersect,” said Dave Weber, director of corporate and international relations for the School. “These teens are those future leaders and we’re glad Samsung and Scholastic helped bring them to campus.”