<MIT App Inventor Challenge allows childrenand adult to create apps that tackle the coronavirus pandemic>
<computer science and artificial intelligence app smartphone invention>
A new challenge launched by MIT App Inventor — a web-based, visual-programming
environment that allows children to develop applications for smartphones and tablets
encourages kids and adults to build mobile technologies that could be used to help stem
the spread of Covid-19, aid local communities, and provide moral support to people
around the world. This image includes four screenshots from apps submitted to the site
that were made by participants.
When schools around the world closed their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, the team behind
MIT app inventor — a web-based, visual-programming environment that allows children to develop
applications for smartphones and tablets — began thinking about how they could not only help keep
children engaged and learning, but also empower them to create new tools to address the pandemic.
In April, the App Inventor team launched a new challenge that encourages children and adults around the
world to build mobile technologies that could be used to help stem the spread of Covid-19, aid local
communities, and provide moral support to people around the world.
“Many people, including kids, are locked down at home with little to do and with a sense of loss of control
over their lives,” says Selim Tezel, a curriculum developer for MIT App Inventor. “We wanted to empower
them to take action, be involved in a creative process, and do something good for their fellow citizens.”
Since the launched corona virus inventor challenge this spring, there have been submissions from
inventors ranging in age from 9 to 72 years and from coders around the globe, including New Zealand,
the Democratic Republic of Congo, Italy, China, India, and Spain. While the App Inventor platform has
historically been used in classrooms as an educational tool, Tezel and Hal Abelson, the Class of 1922
Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering in Computer Science, explain that they have seen
increased individual engagement with the platform during the pandemic, particularly on a global scale.
“The nice thing about App Inventor is that you’re learning about coding, but it also gives you something
that you can actually do and a chance to contribute,” says Abelson. “It provides kids with an opportunity
to say, ‘I’m not just learning, I’m doing a project, and it’s not only a project for me, it’s a project that can
actually help other people.’ I think that can be very powerful.”
Winners are announced on a monthly basis and honor apps for creativity, design, and overall
inventiveness. Challenge participants have addressed a wide variety of issues associated with the
pandemic, from health and hygiene to mental health and education. For example, April’s Young Inventors
of the Month, Bethany Chow and Ice Chow from Hong Kong, developed an app aimed at motivating
users to stay healthy. Their app features a game that encourages players to adapt healthy habits by
collecting points that they can use to defeat virtual viruses, as well as an optional location tracker function
that can alert users if they have frequented a location that has a Covid-19 outbreak.
Akshaj Singhal, a 11-year-old from India, was selected as the June Inventor of the Month in the Young
Inventors category, which includes children 12 years old and younger, for his app called covid 19 warrior.
The app offers a host of features aimed at spreading awareness of Covid-19, including a game and quiz
to test a user’s knowledge of the virus, as well as local daily Covid-19 news updates and information on
how to make your own mask.
The challenge has attracted participants with varying levels of technical expertise, allowing aspiring
coders a chance to hone and improve their skills. Prayanshi Garg, a 12-year-old from India, created her
first app for the challenge, an educational quiz aimed at increasing awareness of Covid-19. Vansh
Reshamwala, a 10-year-old from India, created an app that features a recording of his voice sharing
information about ways to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 and thanking heroes for their efforts during
Participants have also been able to come together virtually to develop apps during a time when social
interactions and team activities are limited. For example, three high school students from Singapore
developed maskeraid, an app that connects users in need of assistance with volunteers who are able to
help with a variety of services.
“The ultimate goal is to engage our very creative App Inventor community of all ages and empower them
during this time,” says Tezel. “We also see this time as an incredible opportunity to help people vastly
improve their coding skills. When one is confronted by a tangible challenge, one's skills and versatility
can grow to meet the challenge.”
The App Inventor team plans to continue hosting the challenge for so long as the pandemic is having a
worldwide impact. Later this month, the App Inventor team will be hosting a virtual hackathon or
worldwide “appathon,” an event that will encourage participants to create apps aimed at improving the
“Our global App Inventor community never ceases to amaze us,” says Tezel. “We are delighted by how
inventors of all ages have been rising to the challenge of the coronavirus, empowering themselves by
putting their coding skills to good use for the well-being of their communities.”