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Students create apps for the hearing impaired

STEM students at Queens, N.Y., high school have series of apps on Google Play store
Students in the app development class at Grover Cleveland High School in Queens, N.Y., met with hearing-impaired community members.
Students in the app development class at Grover Cleveland High School in Queens, N.Y., met with hearing-impaired community members.

Students in a STEM pilot project at Grover Cleveland High School in Queens, N.Y., have developed a number of innovative mobile apps to help the hearing impaired.

One app makes a smartphone vibrate and flash to alert a person with a hearing impairment that loud noises nearby may signal danger. A second app lets parents know when a child with a hearing disability walks out of a designated safe area, such as a backyard. Another app provides directions to places in New York City where hearing aids can be obtained. These apps are now available for free download in the Google Play store.

In December 2013, students interviewed several hearing-impaired people from the Center for Hearing and Communication in New York City, which offers hearing testing, hearing aid fitting and speech therapy for people with hearing disabilities. They told the students what kind of apps would be helpful in daily life.

One woman said that it was difficult to hear what her children were doing in the backseat of the car while she was driving. The students are now designing an app to work on a phone mounted like a GPS. If children start making loud noises, the phone’s camera will turn on, giving the driver a view of the back seat.

App development classes

In January 2012, Grover Cleveland High School in Queens’ Ridgewood neighborhood was one of five schools nationwide chosen to join the app development pilot project sponsored by Lenovo and the National Academy Foundation. The program’s goal was to teach high school students web design, coding and other STEM skills needed for the modern workforce. The schools were given Android-based tablets and computers.

“All students should learn programming in some form,” says Andrew Woodbridge, who teaches the app classes at Grover Cleveland. “App development is a fun way to learn the constructs of any programming language, and have a real product to show for it.”

Woodbridge created the curriculum for the two-semester Android app development course in partnership with the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Cities & Schools Y-PLAN program, a project-based urban planning studio that has students work with a civic partner to enhance the quality of life in their communities.

In the first semester, students learn to create apps. The second semester is business focused, and students form three-person companies to develop three apps. They also create a business and marketing plan and advertising materials.

Grover Cleveland and the other four schools in the pilot are part of the National Academy Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 1982 that offers an educational model which includes industry-focused curricula and work-based learning experiences.

National Academy Foundation schools are organized around one of five career themes—finance, hospitality and tourism, information technology, health sciences or engineering. More than 500 academies with more than 60,000 students are set up nationwide.

The 220 Grover Cleveland students in the Academy of Information Technology take courses such as web design, computer repair and maintenance, and graphics. More at