Olde Towne Middle School team members are Alex Jiang, Nathan Morgan, Claire Richert, Latoria Hicks, and Madeleine Berry, all eighth graders.
Olde Towne Middle School team members are Alex Jiang, Nathan Morgan, Claire Richert, Latoria Hicks, and Madeleine Berry, all eighth graders.
Ridgeland students are representing the state in the Verizon App Challenge and are asking the community to support them by voting on their award-winning app concepts.

Olde Towne Middle School and Ridgeland High School's application development teams both won Best in State in the Verizon App Challenge. They are the only schools in the state representing Mississippi in the next round of the app competition.

Both Ridgeland schools will receive $5,000 for their school's STEM program from the Verizon Foundation, thanks to the students' efforts.

The teams were challenged to come up with a design concept for an app that they submitted online through a three-minute video and an essay based on question prompts.

Tracy Watts, advisor for the RHS team, said that she encourage her students to think hard and find something unique. The team came up with an app that could play difficult pieces of music on a variety of instruments so that students could hear what a piece sounds like.

The app is called MyDirector.

"I encouraged them to be looking for something that hasn't been done before," Watts said. "They worked very hard and did pretty much all of the work themselves."

Noah Berl is the central district president for the Technology Student Association and sophomore at the school, which is made up of a body of six officers that meets with the other three districts regularly.

Berl said that they had a lot of trouble finding a truly original idea until one day when inspiration struck during band practice.

"After nearly a month of brainstorming we had nothing that hadn't already been done," Berl said. "But a bunch of us in band were trying to learn a difficult piece and we thought it would be nice if we could hear this with each of our individual instruments."

Kanisha Wade, a senior, thinks the app will help anyone trying to learn music.

"I think this app would be good for anyone that is interested in music in general, not just for band practice," Wade said.

Olde Towne Middle School students' app proposal, BusWuz, allows students, parents and teachers to track school buses. He thinks it will be a solution to hectic mornings and offer a prompt arrival for students. Now everyone will know "where their bus was."

Bill Richardson said he had a great group that was led by a few key "veteran kids" of the TSA at OTMS.

"They did all the work. They did everything," Richardson said. "They were a really motivated group that wanted to do it on their own."

One of the "veterans" on Richardson's team was eighth grader, Madeleine Berry.

"I was very surprised and happy when I found out that we won," she said.

Winning teams receive mobile devices for each team member, cash awards for their school's STEM program, and if they are selected as a national finalist, the opportunity to be coached by MIT Media Lab professionals to build their app and bring it to Google Play store.

The winning students retain intellectual property rights to their app.

The Verizon App Challenge will have a Fan Favorite Award and a chance to win an additional $15,000 for their school. The Fan Favorite Award is chosen by the number of votes cast for each team.

To vote, text 22333 and enter MyDirector2 for Ridgeland High School and BusWuz2 for Olde Towne Middle School until Jan. 31.