Creatively Using Tech to Solve Real-World Problems With Youth

BGCA’s Lesa Sexton is here to share the app-tastic winners of a recent MyFuture contest, plus some insight into how technology can be used for good.

There’s so much in the news these days about ways technology companies have failed us, whether it’s misusing our data, spreading misinformation, or negatively impacting our mental health. It can make you start to wonder if we’d be better off just getting rid of it all and living off the grid!

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I’m not here to convince you that technology doesn’t have its issues (because it does), but I am here to remind you that it can also be used for good. Technology can be used to solve real-world problems, whether it’s providing healthcare via telehealth for individuals in rural communities or enabling individuals with limited mobility to order groceries online. When youth have opportunities to use STEM to solve real-world problems, they are more engaged in their learning because they can see how it connects to the world around them. Studies show that this is especially important for encouraging girls’ interest in STEM.

In partnership with Lenovo, BGCA recently hosted an App Lab Challenge in which youth were asked to design an app that addressed a problem or issue in their community. The submissions were nothing short of inspiring- apps to address loneliness, bullying, violence, and COVID. The submissions also shined a light on youth’s day-to-day struggles and concerns such as how to keep track of their many extracurricular activities, how to protect their phone from hackers, and how to find a pet if they get lost.

So without further ado, I’d like to share with you just a few of the top submissions (there were so many!). These app ideas will not only restore your belief in the potential of technology for good, it will also confirm what we’ve already known to be true-when these kids get put in charge, we’re going to be alright.

Schitts Creek Comedy GIF by CBC - Find & Share on GIPHY

The winner for ages 8-10 is Joanna P. at the Variety Boys & Girls Club! The Evergreen ALERT App is an app that helps parents stay up to date with all the news about COVID. The app allows parents to monitor their child’s weekly COVID-19 test results, report COVID-19 exposure, get information about COVID-19 tests, and see how many COVID-19 cases have been reported in the community. Joanna said “My app will be successful with parents because it provides useful resources to parents and lets them easily monitor their child’s health and COVID-19 cases at school.”

The winner for ages 11-13 is Alexander G. also at the Variety Boys & Girls Club! TeamUP is an app that helps parents manage their children’s sports schedules. After downloading the app, you can find nearby sports teams. Once you have joined a sports team, you will be sent the schedule and have the ability to sign up to bring snacks to the game, view the roster, or cheer on the team through the app. The app also features a built-in map and notifications to help you get to games on time. Alexander said “TeamUP will be successful because it will help millions of parents and players manage game schedules with ease and no hassle. TeamUP will also be a popular app to use because it spreads positivity by allowing players and parents to send messages of encouragement to the team before a big game.”

The winner for ages 14-18 is Alexander M. at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida! Find My Club is an app that lets you search for Clubs nearby and gives you access to information about that Club. He shared his design in a TikTok!

HUGE CONGRATS to these creators and to everyone who submitted an idea! They show creativity and give us some insight into the ways tech can be used to make our lives better. Interested in facilitating this activity with your youth? Just head on over to MyFuture and check out the Design an App badge, which guides youth through the process! Note: MyFuture activities are accessible to everyone, but only registered members can submit projects to local Boys & Girls Club staff.

How do you get youth thinking about how to solve big problems? What are your favorite creative activities? We want to know! Comment below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email to share.

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