BUFFALO — A budding group of mobile app creators from Clear Creek Middle School recently won a statewide digital innovation challenge with their relocation app idea WY_HOME_ING.
The app, according to eighth grade creators Ruthie Mantle, Tessa Christianson, Alyssa Reardon and Giovanni Monterastelli, is the “app to adapt to Wyoming.”
Right now, it's just an idea for an app, but the students said it would be designed to help businesses with advertising, tourists on vacation and families moving to the state.
After logging in with basic information, such as your name, email and the state you're coming from, you'd be taken to the menu page, where you can sift through a number of categories to find housing and property, child care, food and transportation, among others. It would also feature a distinctive section called “clipped.”
“Clipped is almost like an online bulletin board, but better,” Monterastelli said during their Oct. 17 virtual presentation to a group of technology officials and Wyoming lawmakers, including Gov. Mark Gordon and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney. “With clipped, you can save anything and everything you need, then all of these are at your fingertips and saves you a bunch of time looking for the same thing over and over.”
To use the clipped feature, when you find a suggestion you like, you'd click on the star
attached to it and it is saved as a favorite. The app would also feature a section to see what people from other states enjoy most in Wyoming and a chat feature so you could talk with others in the area without disclosing your personal information.
The students began working together to come up with an app idea after their technology teacher, Julie Snyder, announced the competition in class.
The competition, called the goIT Digital Innovation Challenge, is a partnership between IT company Tata Consultancy Services and the Wyoming Department of Education, and expanded to include three school districts this year.
Five districts were supposed to take part in the competition, but because of COVID-19 shutdowns, only three were included.
According to a press release from Tata Consultancy Services, the partnership and competition was created, in part, to help Wyoming reach the Wyoming Legislature's
mandate that computer science become a part of the curriculum in all Wyoming schools by 2022.
Mantle said the timing of Snyder's announcement gave them only about two weeks to turn their app idea into a presentation.
“We had two weeks to pull together this idea and project, while our competition had two months,” Mantle said.
Monterastelli said this meant getting together on weekends and during other small periods of time to chip away at each part of the project they needed to complete before their virtual presentation.
“The couple days before the presentation, we worked on it very very hard, got all the final touches on, spent like four hours on Zoom calls, making sure our presentation was perfect,” Monterastelli said.
Their app idea then won first place out of five finalist entries.
One of the judges for the competition was Robin Cooley, director of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services. She praised the students for how far along the app idea was at the time of their presentation and how impactful the branding was.
“The way that you came up with your name is absolutely wonderful,” she said. “You want people when they come to this state to think of this state as their home, and this is the way to go about doing it.”
The group now has several more opportunities moving forward — including a chance at entering a national competition, though things remain up in the air due to COVID-19, and interest from an app development company in actually creating the app.
Despite that, they say their favorite part was getting to work — and win — with friends.
“My favorite part was not only working with friends, but expressing my ideas and knowing that people are listening and taking note,” Alyssa said. "It was just amazing."