Awesome Moment Blog Boys Featured General Girls Instructors Middle School Pictures Portfolio Programming Students

DML 2012: We came, We saw, We Presented! …and had a great deal of fun!

Youth APPLab is an awesome project!  The students, the apps they create, reactions from supporters, and its future potential never cease to amaze me.  This was also case at this year’s Digital Media & Learning (DML Conference) in San Francisco, CA earlier this month.

This year, we wanted to take as many students as possible.  But the trip to San Fran proved to be expensive.  This led us to pursue various fundraising ideas.  Our most successful campaign was on IndieGogo, where we raised $1,500 and a great deal of support.  The video included in that campaign tells the story of our trip to last year’s DML Conference.  A huge thanks to all those who donated!

As a result of careful budgeting, I was accompanied by 3 Youth APPLab students (Shakira – who won a 2012 NCWIT Runner-Up Aspirations in Computing Award, Hamza, and Muhammad), 1 parent (Ms. Graves – Shakira’s mom), our Research Associate (Jennifer), and the Youth APPLab co-instructor (Marco).

Although there were 4 adults on the trip, the focus was entirely on the 3 students. Accepted to participate in delivering content for two workshops, Shakira, Hamza, and Muhammad did all the talking.

First, they shared their Youth APPLab experience to-date and specifically talked about making our ‘Go Green DC: Community Garden Edition’ app (to appear on Google Play by this coming summer). This app helps DC residents learn about and locate community gardens within each quadrant of the city.  This workshop/panel was in conjunction with with Lissa Soep, Asha Richardson and Asiya Wadud of Youth Radio Mobile Action Lab about their app called Forage City, which is an adaptation of Asiya’s Forage Oakland, which helps folks in an Oakland neighborhood share excess fruit harvested from their backyards.  Check out the Ed Week’s blog entry about this panel.

Next, with David Wolber, Shakira, Hamza, and Muhammad helped conference workshop attendees learn App Inventor.  Guided by David, many participants easily built their first app with App Inventor.

We had great conversations with DML 4 competition winners as well as with a host of representatives from programs all over the country who were interested supporters of our work.  Student reception was so great, that someone even tweeted a suggestion that Youth APPLab students make next year’s conference app – a suggestion we accept, if this ends up true consideration!

But all work and no play makes for a bad trip to San Francisco, so we all ventured out to various tourists attractions as well, like Alcatraz, Youth Radio, and the Exploratorium!  A huge thanks to the Exploratorium Employee who gave us VIP invitations!

This blog entry features sub-entries about our trip from Jennifer, Hamza, and Muhammad below!  These beginning words are simply for introductions!

It was a great trip!  But don’t take my word for it, read blog entries from Jennifer, Hamza, and Muhammad below:

Jennifer Burrell, Research Associate – Uplift, Inc.
My first visit to the city of San Francisco was assorted, ranging from viewing presentations at the DML Conference, to exploring the pier, to touring the prison Alcatraz, to visiting Youth Radio, to investigating “science” at the Exploratorium! As a new member of the Youth APPLab (Uplift) team, I was there to observe, learn, and explore.


The most profound scholarly moment for me occurred when I attended the workshop, “What students learn: Connecting classroom games and measures of student learning” by Institute of Play and Quest to Learn (Manhattan, NY).   As frequently endorsed in discussions with team-members at my own institution of learning (Howard University), the presenters promote goal-based learning, complex problem-solving, integrated need to solve, and assessment in the classroom environment.  They shared their experiences and success in using hands-on and narrative learning, which, from my own classroom observations, just feels and looks “right.” However, at question and answer time, the realities of real-world obstacles in implementing similar learning strategies in public schools surfaced—that is, the obstacle of assessment! The question is: how can a public school cultivate the type of learning possible at Institute of Play, while meeting core standards and testing requirements?

For advocates of positive change in public schools—and the mass of children we cannot leave behind—the question of standards and testing, has become somewhat of a bottom line and fundamental question.  Sitting in the audience I was left to figure out this paradox.  There is no doubt that, as my advisor, Dr. A. Wade Boykin would say, it is time that we shift from supposed assessments “of” learning to assessments “for” learning.  While myself and other audience members are certainly on board and agree that, certainly, there must be greater overlap between the core curriculum, what is actually taught, what is learned, and what is assessed – there is much work ahead in figuring out “how.”

Happiest Moment
One of my happiest moments while attending the DML Conference was a simple fleeting moment watching business cards exchange hands between one Youth APPLab student and a conference participant during the APP Inventor workshop. Beyond the surface, this gesture represented the accomplishing of one major goal of Youth APPLab student attendance at DML–that is the building of professional relationships and collaborations.  Further, watching Youth APPLab students share their travels thus far on their pathways towards becoming successful entrepreneurs, computer scientists, and engineers was truly special, particularly because they represent a story that often goes untold.  I was proud to witness Youth APPLab students shatter the figurative boxes that individuals in society oftentimes try to fit them into based on age and/or phenotypic characteristics.  These young people not only attended, but also presented their work as a part of Uplift, Inc. and they were well received. The experience leaves me confident that, in the future, there will be even more representation of young budding scientists, African-American scientists, and other groups that are underrepresented in STEM at (and helping to facilitate) the DML Conference.

Hamza Hawkins, Youth APPLab Student – Uplift, Inc.

My trip to the DML conference this year was awesome. The highlight of last year’s trip was building a digital business card app along with Kweku in under 30 minutes. This year, several other students and I spoke on a panel along with others, we assisted with a hands on workshop, and we explored the busy area of San Francisco.

Youth AppLab had a big presence at the conference through the first day. Shakira, Muhammad and I were included on a panel with others about helping communities with technology. After our presentation, the whole panel, along with Ms.Leshell, participated in a Q&A session. During the session, a participant suggested that we make an app for the DML conference. We left and prepared for the second workshop after we answered some questions. During the second workshop, we assisted with the hands on project for app inventor. At the end of the workshop, we socialized with the participants and gained a few contacts.

After a busy first day, we had the rest of the of the week to explore. Shakira, Muhammad, and I walked around the various stores that were there. Fortunately, our hotel was literally around the corner from every store. On Friday, we visited Alcatraz. To get to the island, we had to catch a ferry. This was the first time I’ve ever been in a boat. Throughout the trip, I’ve learned interesting things. Later on that day, we visited the Youth Radio headquarters, which, as the name suggests, is a radio show hosted by youth in Oakland. We were given a tour of the building and took a quick peek Into their kitchen, which is where some of the youth cooked meals for everybody in the building. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay long enough to watch the actual show that was planned for that night. On Saturday, we visited the Exploratorium which is a museum based on science and technology. At first I thought it was like a traditional museum where you would look at pictures and objects, and learn some history. Well I was wrong. You still learned history, but the pictures and objects were engaging and entertaining experiences.

Throughout my whole experience with Youth AppLab, I gained a sense of how important science, technology, engineering, and math is in our lives. This experience really motivates me to pursue the field of software engineering whether it be in a company such as Google and Microsoft, or an entrepreneurial option through the business my brother and I created, Snikwah Interactive.

Muhammad Hawkins, Youth APPLab Student – Uplift, Inc.

My trip to the 2012 DML Conference was an awesome and unforgettable experience. After the 12 hour flight to San-Francisco we were all tired and hungry, so the whole Youth APPLab group we were traveling with ate dinner, and went to our hotel room to go over the presentation we were to present the next day.

The conference we attended was huge and a lot of important people were there, such as one lady who was on the team that created App Inventor. I was on a panel along with two other Youth APPLab students, Hamza and Shakira, and we presented with others about helping communities with technology. The presentation went great, and then the audience began to ask questions. It was during the Q&A when someone suggested that we create an app for the DML conference. The second workshop we attended, our instructor Ms. Leshell was giving a presentation about App Inventor along with someone else who teaches App Inventor in the Bay-Area. During that workshop we had to walk around and help people create a simple app with App Inventor.

After the workshops we were supposed to attend, we were free the rest of the week. We visited a lot of different stores around the area our hotel was in. On Friday we visited Alcatraz, which is a federal prison that they shut down due to high maintenance costs. To get to Alcatraz we had to take a ferry because it was on a an island. It was an interesting experience. Later that day we went to Youth Radio, which is a radio station for youth in the Oakland area. We took a tour around the building, and it is definitely a nice place. On Saturday we visited a place called Exploratorium, which is a science and technology museum. At this museum they had some of the coolest exhibits that I’ve ever seen in any museum I’ve visited.

Being apart of Youth APPLab is what gave me an opportunity to go to the DML conference, and has given me the skills and knowledge to create Android apps. It’s because of Youth APPLab that I want to become a software developer, and why my brother and I came up with an Android App development company of our own.

App Design Awesome Moment Blog Boys Computers Featured General Girls High School Instructors Middle School Mobile Phone Pictures Portfolio Programming Students Thoughts about Class

First Full Year of Youth APPLab Now Complete! The result? A HUGE SUCCESS!!!

Youth APPLab!

This past Friday was the last day of Youth APPLab internships, and the last day of the first full year of Youth APPLab.  The day was filled with XBox 360 (what better way to celebrate), bragging about completed apps, and anticipation for what is to come in year two!

As I look back on this first year, I realize how far we’ve come and how proud I am of our students.

When we began, 75% of our students didn’t know what progamming meant and never heard of ‘coding.’  But today, about 10 months later, we have a list of 20+ apps waiting to be published on the Android Market (4 are already published)!

Apps already published and accessible using the link above are:

1. The App Inventor Tutorial app by Nate Evans, Jr., a rising 11th grader,
2. Third Grade Math app by Ali Hawkins, a rising 3rd grader,
3. The Brain Warm Up app by Faith Slaughter, a rising 8th grader, and
4. The Color Tap Game by Hamza Hawkins, a rising 12th grader.

Students have explored and learned ALICE, Scratch, GIMP, and App Inventor – and some have even begun to learn the Java programming language.  We’ve gone over presentation skills, the software development life cycle, game design, and pseudo-code – an idea each student initially didn’t see the need for but soon realized its importance.

We’ve been featured in Black Enterprise Magazine, on Black Enterprise TV, the Michael Eric Dyson Radio Show (marker 22:30), and have evenhung out with the Chair of the FCC, Julius Genachowski – at his request.  Two students, Kweku Sumbry and Hamza Hawkins, attended the 2nd Annual DML (Digital Media & Learning Conference) with me and successfully completed an app challenge to create an app (the Digital Business card) before the conference ended – which they finished in 30 min.  We returned from the conference and immediately participated in an elementary school STEM Expo the following day.

Two of our students even started their own app development company –SNIKWAH Interactive!

Did I mention how proud I am?  I’m sure you can see why.

After months of excitement, frustration, confusion, and more excitement, students designed, programmed, tested, debugged, and showcased their apps on Demo Day – June 25, 2011 to a room of family, friends, and supporters.  It was awesome!

Internships followed as we improved some apps and created 3 more for the DC community.  These apps will be published on the market soon.  Students had a great time visiting various places and making app presentations throughout the summer!

So, what’s next for Youth APPLab? Well, students and parents are demanding another year.  We hope to start classes again this fall and are looking for more funders, supporters, and friends.

In the meantime, please stay tuned by following us on twitter andFacebook!

Special thanks go out to our awesome students, their parents, Howard University Middle School of Math and Science, Howard University Computer Science Department, our 2 Howard student volunteers (Matthew and Imani, the photographer) and Marco Jacobs – my right hand man, for making this year run as smoothly as it did.

A huge congratulations go out to the four rising college freshman – all African-American males (Ke’von, Emmanual, Anthony, and Roi) who have decided to either minor or major in Computer Science after participating in Youth APPLab.  And a special acknowledgement to all the other boys and girls who are now also interested but just have a few more years of high school left.

I look forward to meeting new students this upcoming year and can’t wait to partner with the new Center for Mobile Learning at MIT (the new host of App Inventor in 2012).

A huge THANK YOU to the MacArthur Foundation, HASTAC, and everyone else involved in making this (idea) program what it has become today!

I can’t wait to see what happens next!  …and for some reason, I don’t think I’m the only one.

Thanks for reading!

Filled with excitement,


Youth APPLab is proudly powered by Uplift, Inc.



The Warm Up App

The Warm-Up App is an App I created after hearing that doing a few math problems in the morning before you start your day will improve the performance of your brain.  This app took me three days to make.  The end product was an App that with the press of button created a warm-up question to do in the morning, before you take a test or any other time you need to warm up your brain!  All the questions are math questions of either multiplication, division, subtraction or addition.  The App also checks the the answer, gives you the answer if you can’t figure it out and gives you a space to work the problem out. 


Bread for the city trip

The bread for the city trip was pretty interesting because I learned that they provided fresh fruits, vegetables, and in general food to people who were less fortunate. I also enjoyed exploring their rooftop garden even though it rained.


Bread for the City

Bread for the City was alright its was cool seeing gardens on top of the roof. I think I can volunteer for them for community services hours. I think its nice for them to take care of people who need help and not doing good in there household. They had a good tour I just didn’t like the stairs. To many stairs for me but I think it would have been better if I saw fruits that I like. But at the end of the day it was nice and how surprise they were of us.