Students participating in the University of the Virgin Islands’ Mathematics Behind the Science (MBS) summer bridge program gained coding experience while developing “Beware-19”, an app that allows a user to determine risk to the Novel Coronavirus which causes COVID-19. The Intro to Programming – App Building course (June 22 – July 31, 2020) was facilitated by UVI Grants Manager Aimee Sanchez. The MBS program was hosted completely online for the first time due to restrictions placed on U.S. Virgin Islands residents as infections here began to rise in June.
Mathematics Behind the Science was developed to allow college-bound students interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine fields to better prepare for the rigors of applying mathematical principles to the sciences. Training is geared to students who have completed grade 12 and looking forward to becoming freshmen, or for current UVI students who have successfully completed the MAT 024 course.
The students participating in the programming introduction training dubbed themselves “The Sandbox Coders” and they are:
- Shazim Brandy (18/male), a May 2020 Complex graduate. Intended college major: Engineering; Career Goal: drone pilot or aviation engineer; enrolled at UVI
- Denali Georges (17/female), a May 2020 Free Will Baptist School graduate. Will attend Liberty University to study to become a commercial pilot this fall semester
- Sanay Hewitt (17/female), a May 2020 Complex graduate. Intended college major: Biochemistry; Career Goal: scientist; will attend UNC Greensboro
- Jhylie Roebuck (17/female), a May 2020 Complex graduate. Intended college major: Marine Biology; Career Goal: lab scientist; enrolled at UVI
The team’s initial meetings to decide on the direction of their project were dominated by discussions of the local rise of COVID-19; by unanimous decision they chose to create Beware-19, targeted to mobile device users of all ages. By answering a series of questions with background assigned answer values, the user is able to determine whether it is highly recommended to quarantine and test for COVID-19.
While the app is not intended to take the place of actual testing, it allows the user to note possible signs, symptoms and behaviors (such as recent travel) that might indicate a higher risk. The app also contains general COVID-19 information, links to official sources, and a list of testing facilities to contact for appointment.
The app was built using Thunkable, a platform that enables app creation for native Android, iOS or mobile web applications. Thunkable apps are being used all around the world by businesses, philanthropists, hobbyists, educators and many others.
On their own initiative, the students studied instructional videos by Thunkable (which developed the project platform) to add more features to the app: “I am so proud of this particular group and was super impressed with the final product they created in just 6 weeks, with no prior coding experience,” said Facilitator Aimee Sanchez. “They even went as far as to incorporate a database (which I did not cover in class).”
While the summer program has ended, the students believe that next steps would involve mapping collected data against documented positive cases to enhance tracking of US Virgin Islands COVID-19 cases, comparing previous results of older tests to spot recurrences.
The Sandbox Coders are grateful to the sponsors of Mathematics Behind the Science Program like the National Science Foundation and the J. Raymond Jones Fund.
For more information or for future support or participation, contact:
Aimee Sanchez, Grants Manager
Office: EVC 210, St. Croix
Thunkable is based on the App Inventor project, initially incubated at Google Research and then established at MIT where it now lives. App Inventor began in 2007 when Hal Abelson, professor of computer science at MIT, and Mark Friedman, Thunkable’s VP of Engineering (and former Googler), led the development of the platform with the help of Googlers Liz Looney, Sharon Perl, Ellen Spertus, Karen Parker, and Debbie Wallach.
App Inventor migrated from Google to MIT starting in 2010 where it’s been developed by some amazing MIT staff members, among them Andrew McKinney, Jeff Schiller, Josh Sheldon, Marisol Diaz, and a host of talented MIT students, including co-founders of Thunkable, Arun and Wei.
The focus of App Inventor is to push the limits of mobile learning for students and educators around the world.