A group of middle schoolers at King Center Charter School are testing a new app designed to help them get into college and succeed.
The students have been asked to give their comments and feedback to the designers of the app, called WOOP, which stands for Wish-Outcome-Obstacle-Plan.
“I think it’s good,” said sixth-grader Kalei Garner, who like many of the other young testers likes the app’s basic design.
But they had some ideas to make it better.
Elijah Marshall, a fifth-grader at the school, suggested that the designers add more color to the graphics, “so it’s not so plain,” and use picture frame designs to border each screen.
“That will make it fancier,” he said.
Elijah’s classmate Ceionjae White suggested using real people instead of stick figures.
“Maybe like a person with a cap and gown to show how the app helped them,” she said.
The app was one of 20 winners in the $2.5 million College Knowledge Challenge, sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to create free or low-cost Web and smartphone apps to help low-income and first-generation students make it to and through college.
The competition was launched last September at Facebook headquarters in California. Winners were chosen in January by a panel of college-access and technology experts.
“And now they’re all building their apps,” said Keith W. Frome, headmaster of the charter school, which is located on Buffalo’s East Side.
Frome is also the co-founder of College Summit, a national nonprofit organization that offers curricula and technology to guide students through the college admissions process.
From March to September, the apps are being beta-tested by students around the country, including the King Center Charter School students, and will be launched to the nation in September.
The apps cover all of the aspects of successful college admission, Frome said, including scholarship searches, college list research, course planning, peer support and career exploration and preparation.
Several of the apps deal with financial aid application services.
Some of them provide help with getting the college application together.
Others, like WOOP, the winning app that King Center students tested Monday, focus on the “acquisition of grit and perseverance skills,” Frome said.
The basics of the app are simple: Make a wish. Imagine an outcome. Identify the obstacles and then make a plan.
“It teaches kids to be gritty because that’s the key to success,” Frome said.
New York University researcher Gabriele Oettingen developed the WOOP app, which asks students a lot of questions to direct them to set academic goals and use a research-verified process to reach them, Frome said.
The King charter school kids were the “experts, the typical users” who tested the design of the WOOP application for recommendations on how to make the app simpler and more interesting to young people.
The testers seemed to like the basic design.
The 20 winning apps were granted $50,000 to $100,000 each, depending on the size and scope of their project, and involve social media tools to coach and encourage students.
College Knowledge Challenge will not take equity, ownership of intellectual property rights or require revenue share from the funded projects.